Iowa, Hawaii, and Barack Obama: The Human Connections

Iowa, Hawaii, and Barack Obama: The Human Connections
David Smithers

Like the fire and steam that is Pele, as her actions create geographic facts over millions of years or mere minutes, the past and present are brush strokes in the form of human lives that paints a picture of the future. In those brush strokes, Iowa and Hawaii, and their respective caucuses, are connected.
I was born in 1953, in Des Moines, Iowa. I am now a 55 year old lifetime resident of Iowa. I have had a lifetime interest in politics. The Iowa Presidential “First-in-the-Nation” caucuses have gained more and more prominence. This year the victory of Hawaiian born and multi-cultural Barack Obama was the big news from the January 3 Iowa Democrat Party caucuses.
I have supported African-American candidates such as Julian Bond (1975) and Jesse Jackson (1988). I was proud that, in this year’s contest, a woman, and African American, and a Hispanic American each had very good chances of winning the party nomination. Many people, from different perspectives, have talked about this election in 2008 will be a pivotal one in American history. The candidate I volunteered for, Senator Joe Biden said that the next President would have an FDR (President Franklin Roosevelt) impact on the future course of history. Obviously, Biden fell flat, and I became an alternate delegate to the county convention under Barack Obama’s banner.
The Hawaii connection started with an acquaintance and friendship with a lady living only a few miles from me in the greater Iowa City region. I have a MySpace account at The future friend and I first connected over the Internet.
She is an aboriginal Hawaiian born in 1954, in Honolulu. After being raised there and on the big island, she married an U.S. Army sergeant, and Vietnam War veteran from New York. She and he left Hawaii, married in the mainland, and eventually came to southeast Iowa to raise a family. She has lived nearly three decades in Iowa, and learned about cultures and languages that exist here. But she was raised in the strong traditions of Hawaii, especially, in spiritual matters and in healing.
Faith Nalani Bromwich, my wife, and I met this past summer, in an all night fest of conversation at a local casino. What had begun as an afternoon dinner dissolved in talking through till breakfast and heading back to our homes with the morning sun. Since that time, and many discussions, the picture I had of Hawaii and the life of a Hawaiian in Iowa transformed my mind. I soon learned about traditions, about Pele and about the lingering affects of the American takeover of the Hawaiian Kingdom and history since.
I became acquainted with a woman who had experienced domestic violence, living in a shelter, living in a cardboard box under an Iowa City bridge, and estrangement and stress with family in Hawaii and family here in Iowa. She became widow, and has since spent more than a decade repairing and rebuilding her life. It hasn’t been easy for her. But she, like her brother and sister Hawaiians back home, is more than anything, a survivor. Today she is a locally and Internet befriended promoter of Aloha.
Ms. Bromwich’s connections with Barack Obama came suddenly as she joined the Iowa campaign in the Winter Solstice December days before January 3. A moment of symbolic significance occurred with meeting Barrack’s sisters from Hawaii and Kenya at Iowa City campaign headquarters. The meeting with the sister from Hawaii was wrought with language and references to “back home.”
At a rally at a hotel on the Iowa River, in Coralville, an Iowa City suburb, on January 2, she traded words and a hug with Mr. Obama, as he left the stage. It was an exciting and huge gathering. Her experiences with the campaign and local caucus goers are ones that will linger in her mind for a long time.
My friend claims that reading from my political blogs, and through shared attendance at some political events she gained a new appreciation in political activity that has since replaced her past cynicism. Another of our mutual friends makes a similar claim. I however, on January 2, was just a few blocks away working at Biden’s last rally. The foreboding that was in the pit of my stomach and in my aching head gathered strength going into the next day’s caucuses, and for weeks after. Turns out both Ms. Bromwich and our mutual friend became Obama supporters.
Before and after the caucuses, Ms. Bromwich has been developing a book about her life experiences in Hawaii and on the mainland. With the assistance of my wife, Joyce, and I, she is making progress in creating the first products of “Memories in Time”. Together with this work, she continues campaigning on the Internet for Obama, and armed with prayer and healing, she has impacted the lives of many friends in cyberspace, including, quite possibly Obama, himself.
A centrally significant aspect of her near future is a planned return to Hawaii. She seeks to help transform the lives of native Hawaiians and others who are impacted by poverty, environmental hazards, cultural, and economic marginalization. The homelessness and near homelessness of Hawaiians in the lands of Pele are particularly painful. She told me of a story about a mother living in a tin shed at a junkyard in the Waianae Valley. Meanwhile her daughter lives in the back of a truck in a camper. Stories like these are many.
My wife and I hope that our help, and thatof others will aid her overcoming the many obstacles and challenges of her mission, especially, the probable mistrust of some natives of one who had left to live in the mainland, and then returns.

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