(SACRAMENTO, CA.) - During the week-long vacation in his native Hawaii, Barack Obama revealed a side of himself rarely seen by the public. Putting aside his casual wear - usually flip flops and a polo - Obama appeared more relaxed and "even-keeled" (as he often describes himself) than ever. With less than two weeks to go until the convention and the imminent announcement of his running mate, the presumptive Democratic nominee exhibited no signs of nervousness or anxiety during his trip. So, what was it about Hawaii that put Obama at ease?
For starters, Obama was surrounded by at least a dozen family and friends who rarely left his side. Whether it was jogging on the beach or playing a marathon round of golf, Chicago friends Marty Nesbitt and Eric Whitacker were always by his side. Nesbitt even appeared on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Honolulu Advertiser.
Hawaii friends Bobby Titcomb and Greg Orme, Punahou Academy classmates, were also on hand. On Sunday evening, Titcomb hosted a barbecue at his beachfront home for the entire contingent from Chicago, including campaign aides. Reporters only caught a glimpse of the partygoers lounging on the beach, as torches light up the night sky.
Orme, who now lives in Oregon, flew to Honolulu with his wife and baby to be with his old friend. Both he and Titcomb accompanied Obama to the spot where his mother's ashes were scattered, as well as Punchbowl Cemetery, where his maternal grandfather is buried.
Obama was also surrounded by his girls - wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha. He and Michelle spent several evenings at group dinners at Obama's favorite Oahu restaurants, often dining for more than four hours at a time. The couple also went on a date to the movies and spent time together on the beach. Obama took his daughters to many of his favorite childhood spots, including bodysurfing at Sandy Point and eating shaved ice. Even though Obama did spend a lot of time with "the boys," he set aside time on each day to be with his girls.
Then there is Madelyn Dunham, his 85-year-old grandmother, who still lives in the apartment where he grew up.
Before going on vacation, Obama promised to spend time with her, indicating that it was important for his family to be with her as much as possible. The Obamas went to see her four times during the week-long trip, and he kept her out of the public eye. One photographer pleaded with the campaign to get just one photo of Dunham with her grandson, but they would not budge.
As Obama heads into the most important phase of his presidential campaign, no matter how far his family and friends will seem, one thing is clear from his Hawaiian vacation: that family and friends are his backbone.