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Obama Had Multiethnic Existence in Hawaii

Teachers and fellow students at Punahou said even though Obama wasn't a straight-A student, they had high expectations for him. His keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention prompted Eric Kusunoki, Obama's homeroom teacher for four years, to pull out a dusty maroon scrapbook stored away since 1979.

There among the clips and photos he had collected of all his students, Kusunoki found the teenage Obama _ carving pumpkins, volunteering for class activities, celebrating birthdays, even writing a nice goodbye note to his teacher.

"I knew he would do well," said Kusunoki, who has taught at Punahou for 33 years. "He was very gifted, and I knew he'd do great things. But this well? On this stage? I never expected that."

Obama still spends most Christmas holidays in Hawaii visiting old Punahou friends, his grandmother, 84, and his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, and her husband.

In an essay for the Punahou Bulletin, published in 1999, two decades after his high school graduation, he wrote: "The opportunity that Hawaii offered _ to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect _ became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear."


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