Barack Obama



Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. (born August 4, 1961) is the junior U.S. Senator from Illinois. He is the only African American now serving in the U.S. Senate. Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention while still serving in the Illinois State Senate. In November 2004, he was elected to the United States Senate by a landslide victory in a year of Republican gains. During his first year as a U.S. Senator, Obama said he would not run for the presidency in 2008, but in a recent television interview he said that he has "thought about the possibility" of becoming a presidential candidate.

Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Obama, Sr. of Nyangoma-Kogelo, Kenya, and Ann Dunham of Wichita, Kansas. His parents met while both were attending the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his father was enrolled as a foreign student. In his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father, Obama describes a nearly race-blind early childhood. He writes: "That my father looked nothing like the people around me – that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk – barely registered in my mind."

When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced and his father returned to Kenya. His mother then married an Indonesian foreign student, moving to Jakarta with Obama when he was six years old. Four years later, Obama returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School, where he graduated from high school in 1979.

Repeating his 1995 memoir's admission that he had used marijuana during his youth, Obama recently stated before a group of magazine editors: "When I was a kid, I inhaled." He also hinted in his memoir of previously trying cocaine.

After high school, Obama studied for two years at Occidental College, before transferring to Columbia College of Columbia University. There he majored in political science, with a specialization in international relations. Upon graduation in 1983, Obama worked for one year at Business International Corporation before moving to Chicago and taking a job with a non-profit organization helping local churches organize job training programs for residents of poor neighborhoods.

Obama then left Chicago for three years to study at Harvard Law School. He was elected president of the Harvard Law Review, obtaining his Juris Doctor degree, magna cum laude, in 1991. On returning to Chicago, Obama supported a voter registration drive, then worked for the civil rights law firm Miner, Barnhill and Galland, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate from the 13th District in the south side neighborhood of Hyde Park, in Chicago. In January 2003, Democrats regained control of the chamber, and Sen. Obama was named chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Obama helped to author an Earned Income Tax Credit for the state that provided benefits to the working poor. He also worked for legislation that would cover residents who could not afford health insurance, and helped pass bills to increase funding for AIDS prevention and care programs.

In 2000, Obama made an unsuccessful Democratic primary run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by four-term incumbent candidate Bobby Rush. Rush, a former Black Panther and community activist, charged that Obama hadn't "been around the first congressional district long enough to really see what's going on". Rush received 61% of the vote, while Obama received 30%.

After the loss, Obama rededicated his efforts to the state Senate. In his 2002 reelection campaign, he was unopposed. Obama authored a death penalty reform law under the guidance of former U.S. Senator Paul Simon. He also pushed through legislation that would force insurance companies to cover routine mammograms.

Reviewing Obama's career in the Illinois State Senate, commentators noted his ability to work effectively with both Democrats and Republicans, and to build coalitions. In his subsequent campaign for the U.S. Senate, Obama won the endorsement of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, whose officials cited his "longtime support of gun control measures and his willingness to negotiate compromises", this despite his support for some bills that the police union had opposed.

Midway through his campaign for U.S. Senator, Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts.

After describing his maternal grandfather's experiences as a World War II veteran and a beneficiary of the New Deal's FHA and GI Bill programs, Obama said:

No, people don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.

Questioning the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War, Obama spoke of an enlisted Marine, Corporal Seamus Ahern from East Moline, Illinois, asking, "Are we serving Seamus as well as he was serving us?" He continued:

When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Finally he spoke for national unity:

The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

In 2004, Obama ran for the U.S. Senate open seat vacated by Peter Fitzgerald. In early opinion polls leading up to the Democratic primary, Obama trailed multimillionaire businessman Blair Hull and Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. However, Hull's popularity declined following allegations of domestic abuse. Obama's candidacy was boosted by an advertising campaign featuring images of the late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington and the late U.S. Senator Paul Simon; the support of Simon's daughter; and political endorsements by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. From a crowded field of seven candidates, Obama received over 52% of the vote in the March 16, 2004 primary, emerging well ahead of his Democratic rivals.

Obama was then matched in the general election against Jack Ryan, winner of the Republican primary. However, Ryan withdrew from the race on June 25, 2004 following public disclosure of child custody divorce records containing embarrassing sexual allegations by Ryan's ex-wife. On August 8, 2004, with less than three months to go before election day, Alan Keyes accepted the Illinois Republican Party's nomination to replace Ryan. A long-time resident of Maryland, Keyes established legal residency in Illinois with the nomination. Through three televised debates, Obama and Keyes expressed opposing views on stem cell research, abortion, gun control, school vouchers, and tax cuts. In the general election held November 2, 2004, Obama received 70% of the popular vote to Keyes' 27%.

Obama was sworn in as a Senator on January 4, 2005. He then ranked 99th out of 100 Senators in terms of official seniority, ranking ahead of only new fellow freshman Democrat Ken Salazar of Colorado. During his first months in office Obama drew praise for his perceived attempts to avoid the limelight and focus on being a senator when the Washington Post article reported an anecdote of Obama refusing an upgrade to first-class on a flight home.

Obama's public profile continued to climb throughout 2005. TIME magazine named Obama one of "the world's most influential people," listing him among twenty "Leaders and Revolutionaries" for his high-profile entrance to federal politics and his popularity within the Democratic Party. An October 2005 article in the British journal New Statesman listed Obama as one of "10 people who could change the world."

In April 2005, Obama sponsored his first Senate bill, the "Higher Education Opportunity through Pell Grant Expansion Act", S. 697. Entered in fulfillment of a campaign promise to help needy students pay their college tuitions, the bill proposed increasing the maximum amount of Pell Grant awards to $5,100. Provision for Pell Grant awards was later incorporated into the "Deficit Reduction Act", S. 1932, signed by President George W. Bush on February 8, 2006.

Obama was a co-sponsor of the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act", S. 1033, introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on May 12, 2005. Obama also supported a later revision, the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act", S. 2611, passed by the Senate on May 25, 2006. He offered three amendments that were included in the bill passed by the Senate: (1) to protect American workers against unfair job competition from guest workers; (2) require employer verification of their employees' legal immigration status through improved verification systems; and (3) fund improvements in FBI background checks of immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship.

In December 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives had passed a parallel bill, H.R. 4437, which provides for enhanced border security measures, but does not address the broader immigration reform proposals contained in the Senate's bill. Congressional inaction on this legislation has become a heated issue in the lead-up to the 2006 midterm elections, with representatives of both major parties holding the other party responsible for the stalemate.

Obama joined with Senators Coburn (R-OK), Carper (D-DE), and McCain (R-AZ) in sponsoring the "Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act", S. 2590, to provide citizens with a website, managed by the Office of Management and Budget, listing all organizations receiving Federal funds from 2007 onward, and providing breakdowns by the agency allocating the funds, the dollar amount given, and the purpose of the grant or contract. President George W. Bush signed the bill, also referred to as the "Coburn-Obama Transparency Act", into law on September 26, 2006.

During the August recess of 2005, Obama traveled with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. The latest in Lugar's series of Nunn-Lugar visits to the region, the trip focused on strategies to control the world's supply of conventional weapons, biological weapons, and weapons of mass destruction as a strategic first defense against the threat of future terrorist attacks.

Lugar and Obama inspected a Nunn-Lugar program supported nuclear warhead destruction facility at Saratov, in southern European Russia. In a diplomatic incident the Moscow Times reported as reminiscent of the Cold War, the delegation's departure from an airport in the city of Perm, at the foot of the Ural Mountains, was delayed for three hours when Russian guards sought unsuccessfully to search their plane. In Ukraine, Lugar and Obama toured a disease control and prevention facility and witnessed the signing of a bilateral pact to secure biological pathogens and combat risks of infectious disease outbreaks from natural causes or bioterrorism.

In January 2006 Obama joined Senators Bayh (D-IN), Bond (R-MO), and Congressman Ford (D-TN) for meetings with U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq. After the visits, Obama split off from the others for more meetings in Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. While in Israel, Obama met with Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom. A planned meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had been cancelled due to his recent stroke.

Obama also met with a group of Palestinian students two weeks before Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian legislative election. ABC News 7 (Chicago) reported Obama telling the students that "the US will never recognize winning Hamas candidates unless the group renounces its fundamental mission to eliminate Israel", and that he had conveyed the same message in his meeting with Palestinian authority President Mahmoud Abbas. After the election, Obama said: "My hope is that as a consequence of now being responsible for electricity and picking up garbage and basic services to the Palestinian people, that they recognize it's time to moderate their stance." Referring to Obama's comment, editorial columnist George F. Will coined the phrase "Garbage Collection Theory of History."

In August 2006, Obama left for his third official trip, traveling as a Congressional delegation of one to South Africa and Kenya, and making stops in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Chad.

The trip's Kenya segment merged policy and personal elements. Obama flew his wife and two daughters from Chicago to join him in a visit to his father's birthplace, the village of Nyangoma-Kogelo, Siaya District, located near Kisumu in Kenya's rural west. Newspapers reported enthusiastic crowds at Obama's public appearances. In a public gesture aimed to capitalize on the celebrity and encourage more Kenyans to undergo voluntary HIV testing, Obama and his wife took HIV tests at a Kenyan clinic.

In a nationally televised speech to students and faculty at the University of Nairobi, Obama spoke forcefully on the influence of ethnic rivalries in Kenyan politics: "Ethnic-based politics has to stop. It is rooted in the bankrupt ideology that the goal of politics is to pile as much as possible to one's family, tribe or friends. It fractures the fabric of society", Obama stated. The speech touched off a public debate among rival leaders, some formally challenging Obama's remarks as unfair and improper, others defending his positions.

Speaking before the National Press Club in April 2005, Obama defended the New Deal social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, associating Republican proposals to establish private accounts for Social Security with Social Darwinist thinking.

Also in 2005, in a move more typically taken after several years of holding high political office, Obama established his own leadership political action committee devoted to channeling financial support for Democratic candidates. He has become an effective Democratic fundraiser and much sought after ally. According to an article in the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama participated in 38 fundraising events in 2005, helping to pull in $6.55 million for political issues and candidates he supports.

Obama is among the first national politicians to actively engage the public through new Internet communication tools. In late 2005, he began podcasting from his U.S. Senate official web site. It has been reported that Obama responds to and has personally participated in online discussions hosted on politically-oriented blogosphere sites.

In May 2006, Obama campaigned to maintain a $0.54 per gallon tariff on imported ethanol. Obama justified the tariff by joining Senator Durbin in stating that "ethanol imports are neither necessary nor a practical response to current gasoline prices," arguing instead that domestic ethanol production is sufficient and expanding.

Per his Senate voting record, Obama has been ranked the fourth most allegiant Democrat, voting with the majority of the Democratic Party in the Senate 94.97% of the time. Obama was ranked 88th in his support of Republicans in the Senate, voting with the majority of the Republican Party 37.44% of the time.

In June 2006, Obama campaigned against making recent, temporary estate tax cuts permanent, calling the cuts a "Paris Hilton" tax break for "billionaire heirs and heiresses".

Also in June 2006, Obama worked to broaden his party's political base, encouraging Democrats to reach out to evangelicals and other church-going people, saying, "if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse."

At an October 2006 campaign rally for Phil Angelides, Democratic Party nominee for Governor of California, Obama criticized the Bush administration "for the war in Iraq, a broken health care system, and a failure to recognize the threat of global warming," according to a news report published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Obama's keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention sparked expectations that he would eventually run for U.S. President.[58] Speculation on a 2008 presidential run intensified after Obama's decisive U.S. Senate election win in November 2004, prompting him to tell reporters: "I can unequivocally say I will not be running for national office in four years". Asked again in a January 2006 television appearance on Meet the Press, Obama repeated his intention to finish his Senate term. However, in an October 2006 interview on the same television program, Obama appeared to open the possibility of a 2008 presidential bid:

I don’t want to be coy about this, given the responses that I’ve been getting over the last several months, I have thought about the possibility. But I have not thought [...] about it with the seriousness and depth that I think is required. My main focus right now is in the '06 and making sure that we retake the Congress. [...] after November 7, I’ll sit down [...] and consider, and if at some point, I change my mind, I will make a public announcement and everybody will be able to go at me.

In September 2006, Obama was the featured speaker at Iowa Senator Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, a political event traditionally attended by presidential hopefuls in the lead-up to the Iowa caucus. TIME magazine's October 23, 2006 issue featured Obama on its cover beside the headline "Why Barack Obama Could Be The Next President."

Commentators have suggested that Obama's chances to be elected president would be better in 2008 than in 2012 or later. A December 2005 article published in The New Republic reasoned that, with no incumbent president or vice president in the race, 2008 offers Obama his best chance at winning the presidency. In an October 2006 editorial published in the Chicago Tribune, Newton Minow compared prospects for a 2008 Obama presidential bid to John F. Kennedy's successful 1960 presidential campaign.

During his first year in the Senate, Obama acquired several high profile supporters, including U.S. businessman and philanthropist Warren Buffett.[66] Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Illinois State Comptroller Daniel Hynes have both urged Obama to consider running in 2008. Celebrity television show host Oprah Winfrey and film actor George Clooney also recently expressed their enthusiasm for Obama entering the 2008 presidential race.

* Obama drew criticism from progressives like columnist David Sirota for his vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, his vote in favor of a "corporate-written" class action bill, and his "refusal to frontally challenge" the Iraq war despite running as an anti-war candidate.

* Noting Obama's brief experience in U.S. national politics, the British magazine The Economist wrote: "Mr Obama's political philosophy is all about blurring boundaries where it is not pure waffle. Politics involves making difficult decisions, not dodging them."

While working at a corporate law firm in the summer of 1989, Obama met Michelle Robinson, then an associate attorney at the firm; they married in 1992. Michelle Obama is Vice President for Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals. The couple has two daughters, Malia (born 1999) and Sasha (born 2001). The Obamas are members of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ. Of his religious affiliation, Obama has written:

It was because of these newfound understandings–that religious commitment did not require me to suspend critical thinking, disengage from the battle for economic and social justice, or otherwise retreat from the world that I knew and loved–that I was finally able to walk down the aisle of Trinity United Church of Christ one day and be baptized. It came about as a choice and not an epiphany; the questions I had did not magically disappear. But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side of Chicago, I felt God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth.

Obama's autobiography Dreams from My Father was published in 1995 and re-released in 2004 with a few new features. The audio book edition earned Obama a 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.

In December 2004, Obama made a $1.9 million deal for three books. The first, The Audacity of Hope, was published on October 17, 2006, and discusses Obama's political convictions. The second is a children's book to be co-written with his wife Michelle and their two young daughters, with profits going to charity. The content of the third book has not been announced.

* Obama writes in Dreams from My Father that one of his mother's Kentucky ancestors "was rumored to have been a second cousin of Jefferson Davis". This statement has been neither proven nor disproven by genealogical investigation. Claims of an ancestral connection between Obama and Davis have continued to appear in the print media, including a September 2006 Men's Vogue cover story.

* Obama has been mentioned in songs by Neil Young and the rapper Common who, in the remix of the Jadakiss hit "Why", asked "Why is Bush acting like he trying to get Osama? Why don’t we impeach him and elect Obama?"

* The other two popularly-elected African American senators were Edward Brooke and Illinois' Carol Moseley Braun, although senators were not popularly elected until after 1913.

* Holds Honorary Doctorates of Law from:
o Knox College (2005)
o University of Massachusetts Boston (2006)
o Northwestern University (2006)
o Xavier University of Louisiana (2006)
* Obama's brother-in-law is Brown University's head basketball coach, Craig Robinson.
* Obama states that "Barack" means "blessed" in Swahili.

Electoral history

* 2004 general election for U.S. Senate
o Barack Obama (D), 70%
o Alan Keyes (R), 27%
o Albert J. Franzen (I), 2%
o Jerry Kohn (L), 1%

* 2000 Democratic primary for U.S. House of Representatives—Illinois 1st District
o Bobby Rush (D), 61%
o Barack Obama (D), 30%
o Donne Trotter (D), 7%Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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