Samurai Yenta

Award-Winning Journalist, Author, Poet & Inspirational Writer

Francesca Biller

Francesca Biller
San Francisco, California, United States
February 02
Author, Award-Winning Journalist, Poet, Short Stories, Humor and Art Culture
Award Winning Investigative Journalist, Edward R. Murrow recipient, Author, Essayist, Humorist, Poet ____________________________________ Art & Culture, Politics, Multicultural Issues & Identity, Philosophy of Parenting, Humor & Happiness, Inspiration, Female Empowerment, Food & Family, Japanese, Hapa & Multiracial History, Poetry _____________________________________ Published: The Japanese American National Museum, The Huffington Post, My Jewish Learning, The Chicago Sun Times,, Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Be'schol Lashon,, Empowering, Lakeview House International Journal- Poetry, The Jewish News Weekly ofSan Francisco, USA on, Discover, Senses Magazine,, The Syndicated News,, and others _____________________________________ Current & Latest: Speaker at "Mixed-Remixed Festival" for Discussion: "Global v. Universal: Otherness & Writing the Female Writer of Color" held at Japanese American National Museum __________________________________ "Samurai Yenta" a Blog about Japanese & Jewish Culture, food and humor for My Jewish ___________________________________ Books to be published book for Ithaca Press, a compilation of authobiographically-based inspirational-themed essays and stories, and a collection of Poetry _____________________________________ Essays published in a series of Textbooks about multiculturalism called "Multiculturalism in America: Opposing Viewpoints." I am writing a book of poetry, as well as a compilation of short stories and essays ______________________________________ Radio & T.V. includes appearances on syndicated national talk radio programs, including for CBS Radio and others wherein I have discussed politics, parenting, anti-aging/health as well as comedy appearances about pop culture. _____________________________________ Journalism Awards: The Edward R. Murrow Award, 2 Golden Mike awards, 4 Society of Professional Journalists First awards and The Los Angeles Press Club. Awards were granted for Excellence in Reporting for both print and broadcast reporting. ______________________________________ Blogs & Sites : Open I've Got Issues ---  The Elephant Journal The Huffington Post Samurai Yenta ____________________________________ Social Media Website: Twitter @francescabiller  Facebook @francesca biller Facebook Writer/Fan Page - @francescabiller-humorist-writer-author

FEBRUARY 6, 2013 4:42PM

Understanding Obama and his Hawaiian political Roots

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Like Obama, I too was born in Hawaii and even attended a high school not far from his alma mater.


It is likely I also shared the same rickety bus he did called The Express, which used to rattle its way through the different 1970's multicultural neighborhoods of humid Honolulu.


Even my Birth Certificate looks like his, with a sort of ancient, unofficial kind of home-grown and local style, but valid all the same.


Hawaiians are simple, but not simple-minded.


By nature, the people of Hawaii and the many different cultures raised on the balmy islands are gentle folk, but when push comes to shove, there is no doubt they will do anything to protect those they love.


And by this I mean both pragmatic and ideological conclusions. 


Generally, Hawaiians and the many different cultures who share the balmy islands are gentle folk, and they openly show their love and hard-fought spirit for their families with a calm and un-shifted style that is at once both highly demonstrative and relaxed.


While the President was attacked after his first debate for second run as President for not being as strong or on the offense as people had  I understood where Obama was coming from.


I also understood why, during his first four years in office, he had not boasted or widely publicized what he and his cabinet had accomplished.


That is just not Hawaiian style.


While pundits and likely voters were even angered by his performance in the debate, as well as the seemingly flaccid pr of his own accomplishments, they missed an opportunity to acknowledge the very qualities that has made him an effective president.


Assuredly, likely Democratic voters had a valid reason to be more than frustrated by Obama and the tight poll numbers that showed the presidential elections in a tight heat. 


However, the often misinterpreted and misunderstood biography of the president is just what has enabled him to become president in the first place.


A lot of what has made Barack Obama the unique political leader that he is stems from his Aloha upbringing and the laid-back style that Hawaiians not only embrace, but see as strength, and not as a weakness in any conventional or unconventional manner.


If anything, humility is one part of the culture that is seen as a form of masculine honor, fortitude and strength.


As an unspoken rule, Island men do not look to glorify their accomplishments or engage in self-righteous acts for the soul purpose of proving their masculinity or polled-popularity.


Rather, they are confident with their manhood, comfortable and well-eased with their male roles, and are often as active in the raising of their children as mothers.


When you live in Hawaii, you understand this "different culture of men" pretty quickly.


You see fathers hug their children a lot more; witness men hug their male friends; observe males laugh a whole lot more, and most evident is how they make you feel when you are around them.


This includes a feeling of eternal safety, warmth, solidified bonds, and the absolute knowing that you will always matter and be valued.


Growing up as a teenage girl in Hawaii, I felt safe around boys and men, protected, and even relaxed in their company.


The local boys, including my own brother, were friendly and treated strangers like family as soon as you shared one exchange of "How'z it?" and "What's up my friend?"


When I turned boys down for dates, they just laughed and said "Maybe next time sista", as they ran off with a smile to surf, fish, farm, work or take care of their moms, dads and grandparents without a blink.


But again, this does not mean they were not manly, strong or tough enough when they needed to be.


A few times I watched local boys as young as 13 and 14 sacrifice and risk their lives for others, and they did so without question and without expected rewards.


For example, my grandfather was homeless as a child and helped to support his siblings and mother in a makeshift lean-to on a farm. He didn't have the opportunity of going to school. But eventually he worked so hard  that he was able to purchase the farm, a little at a time for his wife and five children, and eventually even built a new home on the acres of land, brick by brick, and hand by hand.


But he never complained about his rough past, never talked about it , and never assumed or bragged of his success as if it were some great or unusual accomplishment. 


This brand of humility, bravery and stoicism bled on to my grandfather's sons; my uncles who volunteered as soldiers during the Second World War and for the 442nd Battalion, the most highly decorated infantry in United States history.


As they were Japanese, they suffered extreme racial prejudice after the Pearl Harbor bombing attack, but volunteered nonetheless as they felt it was their duty to serve as American soldiers. Never mind that many of their efforts were not recognized or as lauded as white American soldiers. They did the right thing because it was the right thing to do.


Said Takeshi Kudo, my 90 year-old uncle who was awarded a Bronze Star for risking his own life to bring back the bodies of U.S. soldiers killed on the battlefields, "I didn't need to prove that I was an American, I knew that I was. I just wanted to get the job done and to bring our boys home."


But to this day, many 442 veterans don't want to talk about their heroic acts. They simply say that they were doing what needed to be done.


As a matter of fact, it is more honorable to never mention or brag about the good that one does, as being brave and doing good is a natural part of being a man in Hawaii ; and humility is part of that.


Obama was also raised in Hawaii during the 1970's, a time when young and old people were both encouraged to speak up about the issues that they cared about, but always in a respectful, direct and yet calm manner.


I remember when my father, a professor at the University of Hawaii used to talk story;  a phrase in Hawaii that means sharing ideas. He used to talk endlessly with other intellectuals, artists, writers, philosophers activists, his college students and other friends about significant political and progressive ideas.


But unlike my early childhood days when our family lived in Los Angeles and when he taught at UCLA, these discussions in Hawaii that I overheard were calm and yet firm; careful and yet radical; militant and yet non-violent.


Most of all, they were thoughtful and concise discussions among men who were influenced and inspired more by strong personal ideology than by political righteousness.


Obama was also raised on the island of Oahu during the 1970's, a time in which there were a lot of  mainlanders moving to the Islands who hoped to find their piece of paradise.


Often called haoles which means Caucasian or White in Hawaiian, most of them were already on a spiritual and grounded path, and for the most part, they blended in well with the numerous cultures who made up the unique Hawaiian mosaic of previous generations.


Another factor that shaped Obama's calmer outlook, communication style and even political style was the fact that he was raised by his grandparents.


While some families on mainland states or from other cultures as a disadvantage, Hawaiians look to the raising of grandchildren by grandparents as a positive.


With so many words for grandparents in the native language, every local kid loves their Tutu (grandmother) and Kanaka (grandfather), and  being raised by them, or in conjunction with their parents is not only considered an opportunity, but a blessing or Po'maika lani.    


For Hawaiian culture, boys step up from an early age to take care of their moms and younger siblings, even when dad is present. They don't look at them as a burden, but rather as a privilege and rite of passage.


While Obama eventually left Island life to fist attend Occidental College, then Columbia University and Harvard Law School, and later became a community organizer on the tough streets of Chicago, he didn't leave his Hawaiian roots far behind.


Hopefully not too far in the future, scholars, political pundits and historians may better be able to understand Obama's legacy, accomplishments and political as well as personal style far better if they look beyond the polls and lens of the think-tank politicized culture.


Politicians, after all are just people; complex, interesting, emotional and well-bonded to their childhoods and cultures as anyone else.


The story of Obama is no different.

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Note: Obama attended Punahoe High School, and I attended University High School, both on the island of Oahu. And like Obama, I come from a multi-racial family.
Don Rich, and it was an interesting article to write. Thank you for reading.
Thanks for this from-the -heart post.

Let's hope America can right itself. A world leader should show some leadership! I recently watched the movie Lincoln which revealed what politics entails.

Politics seems to suppress progress. This is truely discouraging. Individually, and in smaller groups, many can agree on what is the right thing to do, but collectively it seem very difficult to achieve. What is wrong with this picture?

Hope your proposed book is a success. Then back to political satire?

Lyle Elmgren, Yes of course I will continue to write political satire after I write my novel about the 442nd, as merely all politics is satire anyway. Thank you for asking.
I often attempt bravely to stick to the serious, investigative work, but my humorous heart always draws me back.
I appreciate your comments to my article as well- as always, your insight is right on and admired.
My best friend is a "descendant" (as in the movie) of one of the five families who were the "developers" so to speak of modern Hawaii, and I've been to visit. I can confirm what you say. There is so much comfort, appreciation and acceptance that I witnessed among the residents that it consitutes a way a life I haven't seen so pronounced anyplace else.

My sense and what I have been told is that Obama grew up with little of the prejudice that could easily accompany someone with his background in most of the rest of the country, yet in his case he seemed prepared for it, and was wise enough not to insist the rest of the country follow Hawaii's example--at least not publically where it would only stoke the fires of resentment.

This is more evidence of a sophistication that is beyond most of his enemies.
Ben Sen, I truly appreciate your feedback about my article. This is a piece I have been wanting to write for some time now. My Hawaiian roots are deeply felt, and will always have a great influence upon me, as I know they do on Obama.
And yes, as you have been to Hawaii and understand their culture, I am sure that you feel a sense of warmth as I do, that cannot quite be expressed in words.
Peace to you
I think the role of the native culture is greater than anyplace I've seen it, and that includes the Southwest, and I while I know there is discord, there is still also a history of mutual respect left over from the missionary days that shows a greater tolerance. Also, the native culture is so beautiful and the people so gentle it is humbling.
This is as accurate as any work could be; simple, yet very complicated, exactly as its subject and setting. In all, excellent- Bravo.

Little Sistah: Nice, your penmanship! Can tell you get akamai at U High, nevah go Rose-a-velt wit us Papakolea Kanakas :)

Whenever I hear the president speak, his creole accent is there, always, just under the surface. A haole can't hear it, you have to know it to hear it. And yes, he can switch to Baptist Church cadence at will, as Majority Leader Reid so awkwardly noted.

If you spend a lot of time in Waikiki, and yes the president is a surfer and yes that's him bodysurfing Sandy's on my blog, you will hear Baptist Preachers, you will hear New Englanders, you will hear more LA/San Diego dudespeak than you'll ever care to, and if you stay long enough you will, like so many beachboys, be able to mimic these at your leisure.

It's very funny, people visit Waikiki from all over the world, literally, every day, and yet, when asked, many from elsewhere would assume that most Hawaiians were sheltered and not the highly cosmopolitan- Oahu means The Gathering Place and its citizens are among the most sophisticated humans on the planet by far, and I say that not as a boast, merely a fact.

Finally, there is the issue of Punahou School. Older than any other western culture school west of the Rocky Mountains, save my boarding alma mater in lovely Lahainaluna, Punahou has graduated more Admirals than any East Coast prep school, more Generals than any Southern military academy, more Senators (multiple states), more congressmen and women, countless State politicians, multiple billionaires, a PRESIDENT, oh, and many Pro Surfers! In Hawaii the name carries a weight, and it is both positive and negative, as Clooney's descendent portrayal accurately showed.

Yet, no one says a thing about it.

Instructive, n'est-ce pas?

Imua (Onward)
Francesca, this is a side of President Obama that I've not really heard talked about at all (except by him in his autobiography)...thanks for sharing your shared background. What a wonderful family and culture you've been raised in. I agree, the characteristics of calmness, gentleness, and humility are a great strength, not a weakness at all.
Oahusurfer, Mahalo for your aloha insight and commentary. Yes, when you spend time in Waikiki and bodysurf at Sandy Beach, you understand something more about Hawaii in a way that you just cannot in quite any other way.
While I was raised for part of my childhood in Hawaii, I can say that I truly gained a respect for the Hawaiian culture and its people, and President Barack Obama is classic Hawaiian, through and through.
Thank you for your thoughtful comments.
clay ball, Thanks for your kind comments, I am so fortunate to have a forum such as OS to be able to share my viewpoint- Hawaiian style with all of you here. Mahalo.
yeah his personal style i like.
not too gooshy like you know who..slick willie fr. the South..
a nice removed
introverted effusion of real emotion..

" felt safe around boys and men, protected, and even relaxed in their company?"
holy smoke!
here on the continent the gals kinda dont trust the fellows.