Barack Obama has often been associated with Chicago: as a community organizer in the overwhelmingly African-American South Side of the “Windy City,” as a senator from Illinois or as a presidential candidate. If Obama’s political career took off on the shores of Lake Michigan, the 15 years he spent in Hawaii were also definitive. Le Temps wanted to measure the impact these years had on the first black U.S. president by meeting with those who knew him in his tender years.
If Barack Obama eluded his Hawaiian past for a long time, it is first and foremost because the archipelago, home to a 1.4 million people and thought of as “paradise,” did not convey a serious political image. Today, he no longer restrains himself. During a visit to Japan, he described himself as the first "Pacific" president of the United States. His Hawaiian experience culturally saturated the way he apprehends the complexity of inside and outside worlds. It also instilled the “aloha spirit” in him, an affable and compassionate attitude that softens a rigorous intellect. The White House’s reticence in intervening in the planet’s battlefields could also stem from it.
Barack Obama thus did not carry out a major strategic reorientation of the U.S. by accident. Even if that turn had already been cushioned under George W. Bush, he is the one who incarnates the new strategy of focus on the Asia-Pacific. Never has an American administration participated in so many large regional organization meetings and undertaken so many official visits. For the first time, it has named a permanent ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Barack Obama promised to participate in all East Asian summits himself.
The pivot to Asia is far from having a purely military dimension. It also has a strong economic and political component. While the U.S. is not neglecting Europe, by attempting to conclude a free trade treaty, it has determined that hanging on to the growth of Asian countries is fundamental. This new American strategy will have to be implemented subtly, however. The worst-case scenario would be to place itself in opposition to China, with which the U.S. has rarely entertained such good relations, representative of the successful summit between Obama and Xi in California.