After a somber start to his vacation, President Obama arrived in Hawaii on Saturday to celebrate Christmas and ring in his final year as president. Air Force One carrying Obama and his family landed at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in the wee hours of the first day of his annual two-week holiday getaway from Washington. On the way to Hawaii, Obama stopped in Southern California to carry out what has become one of the grimmest rituals of his presidency: consoling the grieving relatives of victims of gun violence. Obama and the first lady spent nearly three hours late Friday hearing from the loved ones of the 14 people killed Dec. 2 when a married couple opened fire on a workplace holiday party in San Bernardino. The FBI is investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism.
The president usually spends his vacation time in Hawaii, the island state where he was born, frequenting the island's golf courses, dining out, hiking, going to the beach, and treating himself and his kids to shave ice, a frozen dessert that looks like a snow cone. He planned to return to the White House just after the new year to begin focusing on what he can get done with the Republican-controlled Congress in his final year in office. At the news conference, Obama cited an Asia-Pacific trade deal and overhauling the criminal justice system as areas where progress is possible. But Obama is also likely to spend much of his final year in office focused on the US-led campaign to defeat ISIS. "Since taking this office, I've never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now," he said before leaving Washington. "I'm going to leave it out all on the field." (Read more Barack Obama stories.)