HONOLULU (KHNL) -- News 8's Diane Ako spoke with presidential candidate Barack Obama Saturday afternoon via satellite. Senator Obama was campaigning in Wisconsin.
Diane Ako - Joining me now is Illinois senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama. Thank you so much for speaking to us. First up, your half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng told KHNL that Hawaii presents your ideal for a perfect America. Why?
Barack Obama - Well, you know because Hawaii brings together people from all walks of life. Obviously, things aren't perfect in Hawaii people are struggling economically they're dealing with high rent, high gas prices, high food prices. The truth is that there is more cooperation and people getting together despite different religions or different ethnicities than just about any place else in the country. And that spirit, that aloha spirit is something I carry with me. I think that it is a part of the reason why I am able to bring people together from different walks of life now that I am running for president of the United States.
Diane Ako - Your half-sister has also quoted you as saying that the world is looking at Hawaii during these elections, so Hawaii's participation is important. Why?
Barack Obama - We're in a very close contest between myself and Senator Clinton. Every delegate counts. This is probably the first time in a very long time where the Hawaii caucus is going to make an enormous difference. I hope everybody decides to turn out. We have a chance to do something unique, and that is not just to help elect somebody who was born in Hawaii and comes from a unique background but also to build the kind of grass roots movement for change that we haven't seen in a very long time. So much of politics is dominated by special interests, the insiders, lobbyists in Washington. What we have built is a grass roots movement, ordinary people. I don't take PAC money, I don't take lobbyist money. 25 dollar contributions, 50 dollar contributions from people all across the state and all across the country - that's what driving this movement for change and that's what is actually going to deliver on healthcare for all people as I've proposed. Or a $4,000 tuition credit for every student ever year to help them pay for college. Or an energy policy that invests in solar, wind and other clean energies that improve our environment and will help our economy. And bring an end to the war in Iraq. All of those things we can do if we've got the American people's voice being heard in Washington.
Diane Ako - Are you expecting a win in the Democratic caucuses on Tuesday because this is your former home state?
Barack Obama - There's no doubt that we want to do well. And I think that if people come out, then we are going to do well. The caucuses in Hawaii, I think people don't participate as much as they would in a general election setting. This time it counts. I hope everybody is paying attention. I hope everyone turns out in record numbers. We want to make sure that we can put Hawaii in the win column. That can help us win the nomination.
Diane Ako - How has your youth in Hawaii shaped your views as an adult?
Barack Obama - Well, there is no doubt that I carry the spirit of Hawaii with me wherever I go. People always remark that I seem fairly calm. I don't get too high when things are going well - I don't get too low when things are going badly. I think a lot of that has to do with just understanding that Hawaii is always there. That's a place where I grew up, and I learned to have the even temperament that hopefully will serve me well as president. But I also always remember that I was raised by a single mom. There were times where we were on food stamps in Hawaii. I lived in a small two-bedroom apartment with my grandparents for a long time. My grandmother still lives in that apartment. So I know that there a lot of folks who are having a tough time day-to-day in Hawaii. And I think it is true all across this country which is why we want to provide tax cuts not to the wealthy but to the middle-class in Hawaii - people making $75,000 a year or less. We want to make sure that seniors have Social Security preserved and that they are not paying taxes on Social Security if they make less than $50,000. We want to make sure that everybody can have access to healthcare that is at least as good as the healthcare that I have access to as a member of Congress. And we want to lower premiums for people who already have health insurance but are seeing their costs go up. And as I said before we want to make college more affordable. Those are the kind of bread-and-butter issues that are really going to make a difference in people's lives. That is the kind of agenda that I am going to take to the White House.
Diane Ako - How have your friends and your background in the state of Hawaii helped your campaign in the state?
Barack Obama - They've been campaigning all over the place, making calls, rounding people up and organizing events. I've got a lot of friends who grew up with me in Hawaii who are living on the mainland who are active in places like Denver and Washington state and Oregon. So we've been having a terrific outpouring of support from friends and family. One of the great things about running is it's actually like a little reunion every city I go to. Sometimes I end up seeing people I knew from back home. So it is really gratifying to see all the help that we are getting and I hope that continues.
Diane Ako - Senator, thanks for taking the time to talk to us tonight.
Barack Obama - Thank you so much, aloha.
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