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WHITE HOUSE NOTEBOOK: As summit host in his native Honolulu, Obama squirms in business formal
HONOLULU (AP) ' 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.
He also couldn't resist a little birther humor.
"As many of you know, this is my birthplace. I know that was contested for a while," he said, to knowing laughter from the executives. "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 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 Nota 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, Nota 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