KAILUA, Hawaii – President-elect Barack Obama visited military families while they ate Christmas Day dinner, thanking them for their service and posing for pictures.
Obama on Thursday visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii near his rented vacation home and briefly chatted with enlisted members who ate turkey, ham and roast beef. He didn’t make formal remarks or speak to reporters during the stop.
“Hey,” Obama said as he walked into the mess hall wearing a short-sleeved shirt and slacks. “Just wanted to say ‘Hi.’ ”
Obama lingered a few minutes at each table as the Marines and sailors and their families stood to greet their next commander in chief. At other tables, the visitors ate candied sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping, mashed potatoes and simmered corn and broccoli.
“What part of Indiana?” he asked one person. To another: “This is the East Coast table, huh?”
Obama, wife Michelle and their two young daughters opened presents earlier Thursday and planned their own dinner of turkey and ham, according to aides. They did not release any other details.
The Obamas arrived in Honolulu on Saturday with four aides, his Secret Service detail and a small group of journalists. Since then, he has been largely sequestered at the beachfront estate.
With less than a month before Obama takes office on Jan. 20, he is taking every step possible to make sure this holiday is as private as possible – something he bemoaned while walking to a driving range Sunday.
“OK, guys,” Obama said, recognizing the photographers snapping pictures. “Come on. … How many shots do you need?”
That was one of only a handful of trips Obama and his motorcade have taken. He and Michelle Obama have visited Marine Corps Base Hawaii for daily morning workouts. Twice, he and friends have played a round of golf. He attended a private memorial service for his grandmother on Tuesday and scattered her ashes into the Pacific Ocean.
And that’s been it.
While Obama vacations in his native Hawaii through the New Year, he and his aides have taken careful steps to minimize his profile. He has no public schedule, although he remains involved in transition plans and has received intelligence briefings.
While aides have taken steps to keep the vacation low-profile, photographers captured images of Obama scattering his grandmother’s ashes Tuesday, and another photographer captured the future first family — including a shirtless Obama — in the backyard.
The Secret Service has blocked the street where he is staying. Neighbors who tried to walk past the house on Christmas Day were rebuffed.