Lawrence Jackson  /  AP
President-elect Barack Obama greets well-wishers after his workout at the Kaneohe Bay Marine Corps Base in Kailua, Hawaii, Wednesday, Dec. 24.
updated 12/24/2008 11:19:01 PM ET 2008-12-25T04:19:01

President-elect Barack Obama offered appreciation to the U.S. military on Christmas Eve in a recorded message and then asked children of uniformed troops if they had their wish lists ready.

Obama and wife, Michelle, made their early morning trek to Marine Corps Base Hawaii just northeast of Honolulu as they had done during the last three days. After about an hour at the base on Wednesday where he went inside a gym for a workout, he walked over to greet more than 60 people who waited for him. The president-elect shook hands while onlookers took pictures with their cell phones and digital cameras.

"You guys got your Christmas list?" Obama asked one person standing in the makeshift ropeline. He asked another: "Hey man, what's going on?"

Earlier in the day, his aides released a recorded message of appreciation to the military "serving their second, third or even fourth tour of duty."

"This holiday season, their families celebrate with a joy that is muted knowing that a loved one is absent, and sometimes in danger," Obama said in the message, set to air Saturday morning. "In towns and cities across America, there is an empty seat at the dinner table; in distant bases and on ships at sea, our servicemen and women can only wonder at the look on their child's face as they open a gift back home."

Economic challenges ahead
Obama asked the country to look to George Washington's improbable crossing on the Delaware River on Christmas Day as inspiration to get through current tough times. The president-elect said in a holiday message that Washington and his army "faced impossible odds" as they fought against the British on Dec. 25, 1776, the day they surprised Hessian forces and won victories that gave new momentum and hope to American independence. In his own radio address set to air Saturday but released Tuesday, President George W. Bush also highlighted Washington's crossing of the Delaware.

Obama used that story to say that "hope endures and that a new birth of peace is always possible" — even as many Americans are serving overseas and others have lost their jobs while the economy sinks deeper into the doldrums.

Obama's message noted the struggling economy, the issue that is set to dominate his agenda when he takes office on Jan. 20. The Labor Department said earlier this month that employers cut a net total of 533,000 jobs in November, sending the unemployment rate to 6.7 percent, the highest in 15 years.

"These are also tough times for many Americans struggling in our sluggish economy," Obama said. "As we count the higher blessings of faith and family, we know that millions of Americans don't have a job. Many more are struggling to pay the bills or stay in their homes. From students to seniors, the future seems uncertain."

Golf outing
Obama, his family and his close friends are spending 12 days on the island of Oahu, staying at a rented $9 million beachfront estate. Aides say the Obamas would have no public events during the trip, although he has received his intelligence briefings and met with aides.

Later Wednesday, Obama played golf with close friend and neighbor Eric Whitaker. Aide Eugene Kang also joined them at the private Mid-Pacific Country Club.

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After his first nine holes, Obama briefly greeted onlookers as he moved to the 10th tee. "I'm terrible," Obama told one person. To another visitor: "Got any tips?"

On Sunday, Obama and Kang played at Olomana Golf Links, a public course. There, he also joked about his game.

The Obamas during past years spent the December holidays visiting Obama's maternal grandmother, who died Nov. 2, before Obama's historic Nov. 4 victory. The Obamas on Tuesday had a private memorial service for Madelyn Payne Dunham, known to friends as "Toot," who helped raise him.

Aides said the Obamas would open presents on Christmas morning and have a traditional dinner of ham and turkey in the evening.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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