Hawaii officers hope First Woman Jill Biden’s go to will increase COVID-19 vaccinations on the islands
After a stormy visit to the Tokyo Olympics, U.S. First Lady Jill Biden arrived at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam early Saturday afternoon and will spend her brief time here encouraging residents to vaccinate against COVID-19 allow.
Executive One Foxtrot, as the First Lady’s plane is called, landed at Hickam Field at around 12:45 p.m. Among those waiting for Biden’s arrival were Governor David Ige and his wife Dawn Amano-Ige; US MP Ed Case and his wife Audrey Nakamura; and in command of the US Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral John C. Aquilino, and his wife Laura.
The first lady in a purple dress and white floral Dior shoes was greeted with fragrant lei. Observers noted that neither Biden nor those who greeted her wore face coverings that are not required outdoors under Oahu’s COVID-19 rules.
“I’m really looking forward to being here in your beautiful state,” remarked Biden after mingling with the Hawaiian contingent. “I am looking forward to.”
With no official activities planned for the rest of the day, she left Hickam Field at 1 p.m. in a motorcade en route to the Presidential House at Marine Corps Base Hawaii in Kaneohe.
Biden is due to visit a vaccination clinic at Waipahu High School at 1:00 pm today, where she will “encourage the community to get vaccinated,” her office said. She will then have a barbecue with military families at the Pearl Harbor-Hickam base before leaving for Washington, DC at around 4 p.m.
After Biden left the airfield on Saturday, Ige told reporters that her presence and encouragement will help increase COVID-19 vaccination rates in Hawaii, where infections have risen and vaccinations are stalling in under 60% of the total population rails.
Hawaii health officials reported 258 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, the 10th straight day with triple-digit infections.
“When you add her voice to all of the local voices, I think she just adds another powerful message to get vaccinated,” Ige said.
The governor also said he was excited to have the first lady in Hawaii and that the Biden administration “put so much energy into the presidency.”
“You are so in line with our core values and the values of Hawaii,” he said.
Hawaii’s first lady Dawn Ige and Jill Biden both have long careers in education, and Ige said she was glad to see an educator at the White House.
“Personally, I’m so grateful that she is an educator and will go to Waipahu High School,” she said.
Biden didn’t arrive in Hawaii empty-handed. The first lady brought a small biscuit gift for Maggie Inouye, 11, granddaughter of the late Hawaii Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who was a close friend and colleague of Biden’s husband, President Joe Biden.
Maggie was there to greet the first lady with her parents, Ken and Jessica Inouye.
Before leaving Japan, Jill Biden dedicated a room to the elderly Inouye and his wife Irene Hirano Inouye in the US ambassador’s residence. The senator died in 2012, his wife last year.
Ken Inouye said his father was “very humiliated” by the gesture.
“He wouldn’t actually see it as an honor for him, but rather as an affirmation and recognition of his opinion and his feelings … that the relationship between Japan and America is very important,” Inouye said.
He said his father also worked to alleviate the ongoing anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States after the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, when Japanese Americans questioned their loyalty and many were sent to internment camps.
During the war, the late senator served on the highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, made up of Japanese American soldiers. He lost his right arm in combat and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and other military honors.
“He always thought it was very important that we, as Americans, work to reconcile the two sides of our heritage – our loyalty to the land and the heritage of the place of our ancestors,” said Ken Inouye.
He also said that the first lady’s visit to Hawaii was about more than just honoring his father’s legacy.
“That day was less about me than Maggie because I always try to make it so that she has the opportunity to meet as many positive and strong female role models as possible,” he said.
This story was compiled by Star Advertiser staff along with reports from Nikki Schwab, the Daily Mail’s senior US policy reporter who is a pool reporter for First Lady Jill Biden’s trip to Japan.