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An Introduction to Obama

Aug 6, 2008
He may well be the President in waiting, but how much is known in the UK about Democrat candidate Barack Obama? Following his fleeting visit to these shores in July, this article takes a brief look at the rise of the Senator from Illinois.

Born August 4, 1961 to Kenyan-born Barack Obama Snr., and Kansas-raised Ann Dunham, Obama's early life centred on an upbringing with his mother in Hawaii before relocating to Indonesia following Dunham's second marriage to Lolo Soetoro. Eventually returning to New York, Obama graduated from Columbia University in 1983, majoring in political science with a specialisation in international relations.

A move to Chicago and the appointment as a community organiser with a local church saw Obama begin working in the public domain, a role that included the establishment of job training and tutoring programmes. A return to education and the gaining of a Harvard law degree was soon followed by the appointment as a civil rights lawyer in Chicago and the role of a tutor of constitutional law. It was also around this time that, as a summer associate of the Sidley & Austin law firm, he would meet and become involved with Michelle Robinson, the two eventually marrying in October 1992. The couple have two daughters.

During his time at Harvard, Obama would become the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, the prestigious journal of legal scholarship that was first published in 1887. The publicity of his appointment led to the offer to write a book on race relations, a work that would eventually turn into a personal memoir entitled 'Dreams from My Father' in 1995. (Obama's second book, 'The Audacity of Hope' was released in 2006 and presents more of a personal manifesto for his presidential campaign.)

As the advocacy work and interest involving Obama grew, the decision was taken to run for the Illinois State Senate in 1996, a position he held for eight years. His resignation from the role only came in November 2004 after his election to the US Senate, a result boosted in no small measure by the lauded keynote address given at the 2004 Democratic Convention.

Since appointment to the Senate, Obama has focused strongly on policies that seek to have the widest possible reach of impact, and also restore faith and transparency in the offices of the US government. With the support of heavily-experienced and high-level advisers, the success of Obama's time in the Senate garnered great media attention and prompted the consideration to run for the Democratic nomination for the US Presidency.

This move was announced before the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, and has been followed by vociferous support for the withdrawal of US presence in Iraq, the providing of universal health care and the increase of energy independence. Each of the three policies has been prominent in the presidential primary campaign against fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton, and now the presidential campaign against Republican John McCain.

The history of Barack Obama has certainly shaped him into the charismatic politician we see before us today. But will the charming and determined Senator achieve the goal of becoming president of the United States of America? It certainly appears that he is the current forerunner, but as we have seen with the Bush administration, when it comes to presidential elections, anything can happen.
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