WASHINGTON, D.C. — If you are Hawaiian, how do you seduce Barack Obama?

Do you stroke his heart strings? You could play up the sand and surf where he spent his adolescence, back when he was “brah,” and not “Mr. President.”

Or how about throwing down the Hawaii high school card — Punahou grad, right? You know, remind him where he started, where his roots are, and who he should be loyal to.

The underlying question about how to woo the president is a real one for the Hawaii-based team that is pushing for the creation of the Barack Obama Presidential Center on seven acres of prime waterfront real estate in Kakaako.

Obama’s political identity is so intensely linked to his adopted city of Chicago that it would be more than a little surprising if the Windy City doesn’t get some lasting reminder of his presidency, like a presidential library, but the islands are angling for their piece, as well. And, while they don’t seem to have entirely given up hope for a library, they may well end up with some smaller-scale Obama love, in the form of a presidential center.

The academics who are promoting it have produced a Hawaii video to win the president over. And it sounds like they threw in the whole kit and kaboodle.

Made by University of Hawaii professors who are drafting parameters for the Obama Center’s vision, the video highlights things that islanders and visitors relish: the silky beaches, awesome skies, and the temperate weather of a tropical paradise.

But it is also personally tailored to Obama. The promotional film includes an appeal to the president’s appetites. Literally. Alan Wong, whose restaurant is frequented by Obama on his Hawaiian visits, offers a message to the president.

There is also an organics pitch that includes interviews with workers at MA’O Organic Farms, which Michelle Obama has repeatedly visited. The idea is that the first lady could engage in special projects on issues that have been important to her: healthy eating and alleviating child obesity.

Proponents of the center note that it will likely include an organic garden that would produce food for restaurants, food banks or other destinations. (The food garden concept gracefully highlights the fact that Hawaii’s main competitor for all-things-Obama is Chicago, a city where few fruits and vegetables could survive the bone-chillingly bitter winter.)

The first lady has focused on childhood wellness, said Robert Perkinson, a University of Hawaii American Studies professor who is leading Hawaii’s Obama Center campaign. “The possibilities of expanding on that concept in Hawaii are pretty limitless, 365 days a year.”

All gardens aside, what the Obama Center will actually do remains up in the air. The Carter Center in Atlanta focuses on human rights and alleviating suffering, while the Clinton Presidential Foundation in Harlem addresses global health, development and environmental issues, among others.

Perkinson told Civil Beat that proponents aren’t envisioning a traditional, dusty old presidential library, or a presidential library of any sort. “It’s not so much to just commemorate the presidency,” he said. “It’s to help him carry on the work that was left undone.”

The president is obviously engaged with other topics in the thick of his second-term: Syria, the IRS scandal, the growing debate about the PRISM program that involves spying on the American people, and Obama’s often contentious relations with Congress.

But for an array of reasons Perkinson believes that Obama’s presidential legacy will likely endure in “a base of operations in two centers” and he is “optimistic” that Hawaii will get something. Perkinson declined to elaborate on why he believes this, or to address any discussions the Hawaii campaign has had with the White House. But he did note that Bill Clinton established his presidential library in Arkansas, and his foundation in New York City.

A former historian at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum at the University of Texas in Austin, Perkinson has been part of the campaign from the beginning. At a Filipino barbecue attended by then-state Rep. Brian Schatz and Obama’s half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng in the summer of 2008 — at a time when Obama appeared to be the frontrunner in his first presidential campaign — Perkinson brought up the idea of an Obama Center. That barbecue took place at the home of Patricia Halagao, a University of Hawaii associate professor of multicultural education and social studies. Halagao has since become a key player in shaping the state’s proposal for a presidential center, and she described the video pitch to Civil Beat.

“We just talked around the idea that night, but after the (general) election we started getting organized. That’s how this project got rolling,” Perkinson said.

Other individuals who have been close to the process include Halagao’s husband, A.J., Schatz and members of the congressional delegation, according to Perkinson. University of Hawaii colleagues have also collaborated a possible vision for the center that a coalition of Hawaii government, business and community organizations are planning to pitch.

Hawaii state Rep. Mark Takai, who was not at the barbecue, separately came up with a very similar idea, and later drafted legislation to promote the idea.

Chicago has already enlisted some high-powered help for its presidential library lobbying. And top officials from the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught law, traveled to Dallas in December to meet with archivists at The George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University.

If Hawaii does succeed in becoming home to a substantial portion of the Obama legacy, it would likely boost the economy via construction jobs, tourism and perhaps even give the tropical islands some gravitas in the eyes of D.C.

So what big-picture issues might the Obama Center focus on?

“The concepts we’re playing with are dealing with a variety of global problems, such as the Asia-Pacific region, environmental challenges, global security, education,” Perkinson said.

Maxine Burkett, an associate law professor at UH who has been part of the process, suggested that Obama might want to focus on climate change once he escapes the not-so-aloha din of D.C. politics.

Proponents talk of an Obama Center that would convene experts for meaningful discussions of difficult issues. It would be a place, Burkett said, to come up with solutions based on “real, in-depth vigorous information, outside the political space in D.C.”

Hawaii is an ideal place to address global issues, according to Perkinson. “Symbolically, Hawaii looks outward to the world,” he said, noting its geographic location, which contrasts sharply with Chicago’s place in the American heartland.

One good sign for Hawaii is that despite the great distance between the islands and Washington D.C., the president regularly returns to Oahu. “Obama seems to go to great trouble to come to Hawaii. They come in December and it seems like it would be easier to go to Key West,” said Perkinson. “That’s one of our aces. They like spending time here.”

There will be additional lobbying efforts. One possibility is to have young students, perhaps at Punahou, Obama’s high school alma mater, make drawings that remind him about his roots.

Perhaps they will say: Mahalo nui loa. (Thank you very much.)

Hawaii is hoping that it ends up having something to thank Obama for.

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