Rep. Mike Honda: Obama is First Asian-American President

Rep. Mike Honda says Obama displays Asian-American characteristics, similar upbringing.

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Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., arrives as President Barack Obama hosts a reception to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the East Room of the White House.

The details of Bill Clinton's youth, along with a number of his hobbies while in the White House, often led some people to call Clinton "America's first black president."

Now that the country's actual first black president has been in office for some time, California Rep. Mike Honda, Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee, wants to draw attention to whom he says is America's first Asian-American president: Barack Obama.

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"Everyone looks at him and says he's black and he's white," Honda says. "He's Asian in his upbringing. You cannot come out of Hawaii and not have an Asian approach to things."

When Obama was still the junior Senator from Illinois, Honda asked Obama if he could speak pidgin, a native Hawaiian language. Obama chucked and responded 'Of course, I can talk like that.'

"When you get Asians or non-blacks growing up in the ghetto, they come out speaking like 'Bloods,'" Honda says.

"There is no way you can leave without picking up something from the community."

Honda also says that Obama's deliberate decision-making process is evidence of an Asian influence.

Asian-Americans, which are a growing share of the electorate, have felt both adoration and frustration with Obama over the last four years. At the Democratic National Convention, first lady Michelle Obama spoke at the Hispanic Caucus and the LBGTQ Caucus, but not at the Asian-American Caucus. But Honda says that is because the president views himself as part of the "Ohana," or family.

"You take care of your own family last, because you want to take care of everyone else first," Honda says. In 2008, Honda remembers, Obama was a uniting symbol for Asian-Americans, and they continue to support his policies.

"When Obama threw his hat in, the magic just happened," Honda says. "We all came together. and coalesced behind him in Colorado. When I looked around that room where the national council got together, it just amazed me."

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  • Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. She can be reached at lfox@usnews.com.