HONOLULU — President Obama arrived in Hawaii for a holiday vacation in the state where he lived as a child.
The president, first lady and their daughters arrived on the island of Oahu on Thursday for more than a week away from Washington. The Obamas have no public schedule and are expected to celebrate the holidays in private at a rented compound in the town of Kailua.
Obama left the White House earlier on Christmas Eve after the U.S. Senate passed heath care legislation. Obama leaves behind a Washington bitterly divided over his top domestic priority. The first family's departure was delayed until senators took action.
Obama spent part of last December in Hawaii, where his mother and grandmother raised him.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama offered Christmas wishes to the nation, including a special thanks for the U.S. military. They urged Americans to help support military families this holiday season.
In his weekly radio and Internet address, Obama said serving as commander in chief has been his greatest honor as president. He saluted the "selfless spirit" of those who serve and said he has been "humbled, profoundly" by those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"So to all our men and women in uniform spending the holidays far from home — whether it's at a base here in the states, a mess hall in Iraq or a remote outpost in Afghanistan — know that you are in our thoughts and our prayers," the president said in a message released two days early because of Christmas. "And this holiday season — and every holiday season — know that we are doing everything in our power to make sure you can succeed in your missions and come home safe to your families."
Even in these tough economic times, Obama said, there's still much to celebrate this Christmas, including the birth of Jesus.
"The love of family and friends. The bonds of community and country. And the character and courage of our men and women in uniform who are far from home for the holidays, away from their families, risking their lives to protect ours," he added.