CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Dean Ando isn’t just cheering the nomination of President Obama for re-election because he’s a Democrat. He’s rooting for a childhood friend.
Ando, a delegate to the Democratic convention from Tacoma, was a classmate of Obama’s at Punahou School, a private prep school in Honolulu.
He recalls meeting Obama in 5th grade and was in his class through their senior year in 1979, a relationship Ando memorializes with photos on his Facebook page. Ando said he and Obama were close from about 5th to 9th grade and spent many hours shooting hoops — but found different circles of close friends as they moved on to high school.
Back then, Ando says, Obama was not interested in politics.
“He was more a basketball player, music aficionado — jazz — and into girls, but what high school boy isn’t interested in girls?” Ando recalled Tuesday. “He was very academic. He was a pretty smart kid. I noticed that even when we were young. He was taking all the hard courses with the smart kids while still doing the varsity basketball thing.”
Ando remembers Obama’s mother, a young Stanley Ann Dunham, and his grandfather, Stanley Dunham, who would frequently pick Obama up from school.
In 2007, Ando dove into the campaign for his former schoolmate, becoming a grass roots organizer at a time when then-Senator Obama was considered an underdog to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. He’s met Obama personally a few times since then, and said the president remembers him — after he introduces himself.
“I always have to tell him, ‘I’m Dean Ando, your high school classmate’.’ He’s probably met a quarter million people,” said Ando, who works as a commercial real estate appraiser for Thurston County.
Ando was a delegate for Obama to the 2008 Democratic convention, too, and is a member of the state Democratic Party’s Central Committee.
At the convention this week, Ando has been handing out copies of a class photo of he and Obama, and sharing his story with delegates and the media about his eight years as the future president’s classmate.
“I hope the American people get to spend eight years with him as well,” he said.