My Chance Encounter with Obama in Hawaii

What a meeting in Hawaii revealed about America's future President — and the world that awaits him

Marco Garcia / AP

Barack Obama walks down the beach with his daughters Malia, left, and Sasha during his vacation to Hawaii.

It was three days before the New Year in late 2006, and I was eating a burger with the traveler and writer Paul Theroux on Oahu's North Shore. Beside us in the rickety little shack was a quintessentially Hawaiian group of Chinese Americans, African Americans, semi–Southeast Asians and kids who could have been any or all of the above, waiting for the dad in the group to bring over their avocado burgers from the counter. It took Paul and me a few seconds to realize that the dad in question — who looked like a skinny teenager — was,...

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