Writer calls BS on the right's Obama mythology

young-obama.jpgPeter Hong, the former Los Angeles Times reporter who now works as a deputy to county Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, grew up by coincidence on the Barack Obama path. He too was born and raised in Honolulu — has the same style of birth certiifcate — and also went to Occidental College. He observes in a piece for Zocalo that it gives him a certain perspective on the more hysterical claims being fed to conservatives about the president's past.


Obama’s tribe was far more Country Club than Counterculture. Obama graduated from the elite Punahou School in 1979. According to anti-Obama conservatives, it was a multi-culti academy teaching “oppression studies.” No way. Punahou, founded by East Coast Congregationalist missionaries in 1841 (when California was still part of Mexico), was easily the whitest, most Republican school on the island and the second-wealthiest private school in the western U.S. (The wealthiest private school in the U.S. was then, and is today, Kamehameha, a school for native Hawai’ians. It has $9 billion in assets)....

Native Hawai’ian activism and anti-colonial politics existed in the 1970s, to be sure, but Punahou then was about the worst place to look for it. The Hawai’ian cultural renaissance, which took off in earnest after Obama left, has revived the native language and other traditions. It’s a broadly embraced movement, feared by no one, and the tourist industry has even capitalized on it. Disney’s recently opened resort on O’ahu commissions local artists, hires community residents, and touts its Hawai’ian-ness to charge visitors $1,000 a night to stay there.

This is the capitalist, democratic Hawai’i Obama visits at least once a year.


Characterizations of Occidental as a radical hotbed, especially during the early 1980s, are equally disconnected from reality....Oxy had a decent football team, cheerleaders in short skirts, fraternities, sororities, and an active college Republicans group. The campus organization with highest participation may well have been the Christian student club. Alumnus Jack Kemp was a rising conservative star in Congress when Obama was in college, and I attended a campus ceremony in which Kemp was awarded an honorary degree. Kemp always praised Occidental, and, last year, the college named its football stadium in his honor.

This world from which Obama came is not frightening but familiar, a conventional place for anyone who might bother to look.

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