Aloha Fills D.C. Air at Trustee Reception
On Jan. 18, as late afternoon temperatures in Washington, D.C., dipped to the 30s outdoors, inside the elegant home of Steve '76 and Jean Case, the warmth of aloha filled the air.
Nearly 200 alumni, friends and family gathered at a trustee reception to honor one of their own, President-elect Barack Obama '79, who in two days would be president.
At the entrance to the brownstone, guests were welcomed with lei and by the nahenahe melodies of the Aloha Boys, with special guest Jacques "Leokane" Pryor '82. Sprays of orchids brightened the rooms, and the buffet included delectable favorites such as Hanalei poi and kalua pig.
Alumni came from all over to be part of the celebration.
"I'm so amazed - there are graduates from '47 to '08 who are here," said Kikilia Fordham'82 Schaefer, director of Alumni Relations.
In addition to Case, Punahou trustees were represented by Board President Warren Luke '62, Ethan Abbott '72, Wendy Crabb, trustee emeritus Walter Dods, Claire Olsen '58 Johnson and Connie Hee '70 Lau.
Case welcomed the guests by highlighting the historic nature of this inauguration: Not only is Obama the first African-American president, he is the first from Hawai‘i and Punahou. "It's amazing that in 50 years we have come so far," Case said, referencing Hawai‘i's statehood anniversary. He said having an alumnus in the White House paves the way for people to "recognize what a special school [Punahou] is."
Andrew Strand '03, a D.C. resident, arrived with siblings Megan '00 and Benjamin '08. "It's phenomenal," he said of the gathering. "One of the things I miss most being away from home is being able to connect with the Punahou community."
Megan Strand was thrilled to see former teachers Paula Kurashige, Eric Kusunoki and Pal Eldredge '64. "They're the ones who got us to where we are now," said the young law associate.
Punahou President Jim Scott '70 introduced Obama's sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng '88, who graciously conveyed her brother's appreciation even as duties prevented him from attending. "You've given him your blood, sweat and tears," she said. "His presence in the White House is evidence of the kind of country we have and indicative of the education he received at Punahou."
To the world, Obama will be "Mr. President," yet to many in the room, he'll also remain a childhood friend. "He's still basically the same person he's always been," said Mike Ramos '78, who shared a love of jazz with the youthful Obama. "His ability to understand and connect with people, the way he can articulate himself. He's the same; he's just taken it to another level."
At 7:30 p.m., revelers wrapped up the festivities with the school song "Oahu wa" and a boisterous rendition of "Strawberry Shortcake." With the inauguration around the corner, the lyrics to the cheer suddenly took on a new meaning:
Are we in it? Well, I guess.
Punahou, Punahou, Yes! Yes! Yes!