Maui Celebrates Obama’s Day at the Crack of Dawn

This time of year, when the U.S. mainland is on standard time, there is “only” a five-hour difference between Hawaii time and East Coast time. (When Daylight time is in effect, the difference is six hours.) So when our native son was sworn in as president yesterday at noon in Washington, Hawaii residents were blinking over their first cup of coffee at 7:00 a.m. Not a problem!

Charley’s is a combination restaurant and sports bar located15 minutes down the road from here in the little town of Paia. And by 6:30 yesterday morning, the joint was packed with people waiting to watch Barack Obama become our 44th president.

I wasn’t there myself and can’t give you a first-hand report. But, if I may, let me have my daughter, Ilima, to the honors. She covered the event at Charley’s as a staff writer for The Maui News, our daily paper. You can go here to read the full account, but here’s the first ‘graph of her report, which conveys the emotions of that morning.

PAIA — Friends held hands, strangers wept and embraced, and kamaaina, malihini and visitors came together Tuesday to celebrate native son Barack Obama’s inauguration as president of the United States. At an early-morning gathering to watch the event live on television at Charley’s Restaurant in Paia, a crowd packed shoulder to shoulder erupted as Obama completed the oath of office, surging to their feet, screaming and wiping away tears. “I cried all the way through,” said Helen Wilson. “It was wonderful.” The Maui crowd, joyous and buzzing in spite of the event’s 6:30 a.m. start, cheered as Obama struck key themes in his speech — invoking the sacrifices of previous generations, reaching out to Muslims and the international community, and calling on Americans to rise to the challenges that lie ahead. People stood, hands over hearts, to sing along with the national anthem. “I never sing the Star-Spangled Banner, but I sang it loud today,” said Kihei resident Kamalani Rose.