WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: A business suit in Hawaii?
HONOLULU—Mahalo! Welcome to Hawaii. Where we natives don't actually dress like this.
President Barack Obama has been lauding the sunny hospitality of his native Hawaii as he hosts the Asia-Pacific summit here. But he told an audience of business leaders on Saturday that his business formal look feels "a little odd."
"In all my years of living in Hawaii and visiting Hawaii, this is the first time I've ever worn a suit," he said.
While Obama has yet to slip into a floral print Hawaiian shirt during the APEC summit meetings, he did tease Russian President Dmitry Medvedev about the idea.
"My understanding is that he's been spotted in a Hawaiian shirt, walking and enjoying the good weather," he told reporters during a meeting with Medvedev. "I don't know if anybody got pictures of this."
The businesslike Russian leader smiled but said nothing.
Indeed, no such pictures have surfaced.
But whether the world could still see Obama, Medvedev and other APEC leaders in "aloha wear" remains an open question.
Since President Bill Clinton began these yearly summits in 1993, APEC chiefs have donned local garb for their official photo -- except for last year, when Japan hosted APEC in Yokohama. There's no official word yet on how this year's photo will go.
Birther humor, it seems, hasn't died out quite yet.
Speaking to the business executives, Obama reminded them Honolulu is where he was born.
"I know that was contested for a while," he said, to knowing laughter. "I can actually show you the hospital if you want."
In April, Obama moved to end conspiracy theories by publishing his detailed birth certificate, which shows him born Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital -- a less-than-two-mile drive from the summit venues.
To one Obama guest who hasn't seen the city for a very long time, Honolulu remains a jewel, even when viewed from a cemetery.
Of course the cemetery that Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was visiting was the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, which is a top tourist destination with a breathtaking view of the city and the Oahu coast. Located in Punchbowl Crater just north of downtown Honolulu, the cemetery is the resting place for some 34,000 veterans of World War I, World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
As photographers snapped pictures of the pair, Noda told Obama about placing a wreath there Saturday, during his first visit to Honolulu in 34 years. "I renewed my recognition of how beautiful and great this city is," he said.
First lady Michelle Obama is helping ensure the APEC summit doesn't just look Hawaiian, it tastes Hawaiian -- with locally grown, certified organic produce from a farm that promotes the culture of native Hawaiians.
On Saturday, Mrs. Obama toured MA'O Organic Farms in rural Waianae, a 45-minute drive from Honolulu in western Oahu. The 24-acre farm raises some three dozen varieties, which it sells to local restaurants and grocery stores. It also employs at-risk area youth who work a three-year internship in exchange for tuition at a local community college.
The first lady walked through fields where vegetables were just beginning to sprout, then took part in a roundtable on the virtues of a healthy diet. In that, she was preaching to the converted. MA'O farms' website notes Native Hawaiians have high rates of diabetes and heart disease.
Her visit ended with the farm staff singing her a native Hawaiian hymn of welcome.
Associated Press writer Susan Walsh contributed to this report