US president-elect Barack Obama and his family returned to Chicago early yesterday morning from their 12-day holiday in Hawaii and prepared to fly onward to Washington in the coming days.
Obama’s chartered plane landed in his hometown, where thermometers showed minus 1˚C. When he left Honolulu about eight hours earlier, temperatures were hovering above 20˚C. He joked to reporters during a brief New Years Day visit to the press cabin that his wife and girls weren’t speaking to him because of the change in climate.
Earlier in the day, he said goodbye to residents on the island where his family vacationed.
“I wish I could hang out with you but I’ve got to go home,” Obama told onlookers on Thursday as he left his morning workout at Kailua’s Marine Corps Base Hawaii near Honolulu.
He won’t be home long: The Obamas are expected to fly to Washington on Sunday.
While on vacation, Obama took advantage of his last break before he takes office on Jan. 20 and rented a US$9 million beach-front home.
He had few public events, other than small talk with residents who followed his every move.
He played golf three times — and bemoaned his performance each time — and basketball at his alma mater, the private Punahou School.
He also made the quick motorcade to the nearby Marine Corps base for workouts.
He stayed out of the escalating situation in the Middle East, where Israeli troops have launched an offensive against Hamas leaders who fired rockets from Gaza. Aides say there is only one president at a time, but Obama received security briefings and spoke with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his incoming national security team.
Michelle Obama similarly remained out of sight, other than the occasional trip to the gym. She did not join Obama and the girls when they went to an aquatic park or to the zoo, nor when he visited the nearby Marine base on Christmas Day.
The Obamas won’t have that out-of-sight ability much longer.
Obama plans to meet with US President George W. Bush and former presidents at the White House on Wednesday, as well as meetings with Democratic leaders on a legislative package to aid the nation’s ailing economy. And seven-year-old Sasha and 10-year-old Malia are to start school at Washington’s elite Sidwell Friends School on Monday.
The president-elect plans to meet Democratic and Republican congressional leaders on Monday to discuss their legislative agendas, including how to jump-start the struggling US economy, a Democratic congressional aide said on Thursday.
Obama plans to first meet House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and they will later be joined by Republican leaders Representative John Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell, the aide said, speaking on condition of anonymity.