Sunday, January 20, 2008
Barack Obama - Biography and History
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2005
Serving with Richard Durbin
|Preceded by||Peter Fitzgerald|
Member of the Illinois State Senate
from the 13th district
|In office |
1997 – 2004
|Succeeded by||Kwame Raoul|
|Born||August 4, 1961 (1961-08-04) |
Honolulu, Hawaii, USA
|Alma mater||Columbia University, |
Harvard Law School
|Religion||Christian (United Church of Christ)|
Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. (pronounced /bəˈrɑːk huːˈseɪn oʊˈbɑːmə/) (born August 4, 1961) is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 presidential election. He is the fifth African American Senator in U.S. history, the third to have been popularly elected, and the only African American currently serving in the U.S. Senate.
Obama was born in Honolulu to a Kenyan father and an American mother. He lived most of his early life in the Pacific island U.S. state of Hawaii. From ages six to ten, he lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama worked as a community organizer, university lecturer, and civil rights lawyer before running for public office. He served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. Following an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he launched his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2003.
Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention while still an Illinois state legislator. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2004 with a landslide 70% of the vote in an election year marked by Republican gains. As a member of the Democratic minority in the 109th Congress, Obama co-sponsored the enactment of conventional weapons control and transparency legislation, and made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In the 110th Congress, he has sponsored legislation on lobbying and electoral fraud, climate change, nuclear terrorism, and care for returned U.S. military personnel.
Since announcing his presidential campaign in February 2007, Obama has emphasized ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence, and providing universal health care as major priorities. He married in 1992 and has two daughters. He has written two bestselling books: a memoir of his youth titled Dreams from My Father, and The Audacity of Hope, a personal commentary on U.S. politics.
Early life and career
- See also: Dreams from My Father
Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Obama, Sr. (born in Nyanza Province, Kenya, of Luo ethnicity) and Ann Dunham (born in Wichita, Kansas). His parents met while both were attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his father was enrolled as a foreign student. Obama's parents separated when he was two years old and later divorced. His father went to Harvard University to pursue Ph.D. studies, then returned to Kenya. His mother married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian foreign student, and the family moved to Jakarta in 1967. Obama attended local schools in Jakarta, including Basuki school, from ages 6 to 10, where classes were taught in the Indonesian language. He then returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents while attending Punahou School from the fifth grade until his graduation in 1979. Obama's mother died of ovarian cancer a few months after the publication of his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father.
In the memoir, Obama describes his experiences growing up in his mother's American middle class family. His knowledge about his African father, who returned once for a brief visit in 1971, came mainly through family stories and photographs. Of his early childhood, Obama 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." The book describes his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage. He wrote that he used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years to "push questions of who I was out of my mind".
After high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles, where he studied at Occidental College for two years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations. Obama received his B.A. degree in 1983, then worked at Business International Corporation and NYPIRG before moving to Chicago to take a job as a community organizer. As Director of the Developing Communities Project, he worked with low-income residents in Chicago's Roseland community and the Altgeld Gardens public housing development. He entered Harvard Law School in 1988. In 1990, The New York Times reported his election as the Harvard Law Review's "first black president in its 104-year history". He completed his J.D. degree magna cum laude in 1991. On returning to Chicago, Obama directed a voter registration drive. As an associate attorney with Miner, Barnhill & Galland from 1993 to 1996, he represented community organizers, discrimination claims, and voting rights cases. He was a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1993 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004.
Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996 from the state's 13th District in the south-side Chicago neighborhood of Hyde Park. In 2000, he made an unsuccessful Democratic primary run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by four-term incumbent candidate Bobby Rush. He was reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998 and 2002, officially resigning in November 2004 following his election to the U.S. Senate. As a state legislator, Obama gained bipartisan support for legislation reforming ethics and health care laws. He sponsored a law enhancing tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for child care. Obama also led the passage of legislation mandating videotaping of homicide interrogations, and a law to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they stopped. During his 2004 general election campaign for U.S. Senate, he won the endorsement of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, whose president credited Obama for his active engagement with police organizations in enacting death penalty reforms. He was criticized by rival pro-choice candidates in the Democratic primary and by his Republican pro-life opponent in the general election for a series of "present" or "no" votes on late-term abortion and parental notification issues.
Keynote address at 2004 Democratic National Convention
- See also: 2004 Democratic National Convention
Obama wrote and delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, while still serving as a state legislator. After describing his maternal grandfather's experiences as a World War II veteran and a beneficiary of the New Deal's FHA and G.I. 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 management 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 is 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 in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
The speech was Obama's introduction to most of America. Its enthusiastic reception at the convention and widespread coverage by national media gave him instant celebrity status.
In 2003, Obama began his run 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. Obama received over 52% of the vote in the March 2004 primary, emerging 29% ahead of his nearest Democratic rival. His opponent in the general election was expected to be Republican primary winner Jack Ryan. However, Ryan withdrew from the race in June 2004, following public disclosure of child custody divorce records containing sexual allegations by Ryan's ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan. In August 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 November 2004 general election, Obama received 70% of the vote to Keyes's 27%, the largest electoral victory in Illinois history.
Obama was sworn in as a Senator on January 4, 2005. In a move considered exceptional for a first-term incoming senator, he recruited Pete Rouse, a 30-year veteran of the Washington political scene and former chief of staff to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, as his chief of staff. Karen Kornbluh, an economist who was deputy chief of staff to former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, was hired as Obama's policy adviser. Foreign policy advisers include Samantha Power, author on human rights and genocide, and former Clinton administration officials Anthony Lake and Susan Rice. Obama holds assignments on the Senate Committees for Foreign Relations; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Veterans' Affairs, and is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Obama took an active role in the Senate's drive for improved border security and immigration reform. In 2005, he co-sponsored the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act" introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). He later added three amendments to the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act", which passed the Senate in May 2006, but failed to gain majority support in the U.S. House of Representatives. In September 2006, Obama supported a related bill, the Secure Fence Act, authorizing construction of fencing and other security improvements along the Mexico–United States border. President Bush signed the Secure Fence Act into law in October 2006, calling it "an important step toward immigration reform."
Partnering first with Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), and then with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), Obama successfully introduced two initiatives bearing his name. "Lugar-Obama" expands the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles and anti-personnel mines. The "Coburn-Obama Transparency Act" provides for a web site, 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. In December 2006, President Bush signed into law the "Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act," marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In August 2005, he traveled to Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. The trip focused on strategies to control the world's supply of conventional weapons, biological weapons, and weapons of mass destruction as a first defense against potential terrorist attacks. Following meetings with U.S. military in Kuwait and Iraq in January 2006, Obama visited Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian territories. At a meeting with Palestinian students two weeks before Hamas won the legislative election, Obama warned that "the U.S. will never recognize winning Hamas candidates unless the group renounces its fundamental mission to eliminate Israel." He left for his third official trip in August 2006, traveling to South Africa, Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Chad. In a nationally televised speech at the University of Nairobi, he spoke forcefully on the influence of ethnic rivalries and corruption in Kenya. The speech touched off a public debate among rival leaders, some formally challenging Obama's remarks as unfair and improper, others defending his positions.
In the first month of the newly Democratic-controlled 110th Congress, Obama worked with Russ Feingold (D–WI) to eliminate gifts of travel on corporate jets by lobbyists to members of Congress and require disclosure of bundled campaign contributions under the "Honest Leadership and Open Government Act", which was signed into law in September 2007. He joined Charles Schumer (D-NY) in sponsoring S. 453, a bill to criminalize deceptive practices in federal elections, including fraudulent flyers and automated phone calls, as witnessed in the 2006 midterm elections. Obama's energy initiatives scored pluses and minuses with environmentalists, who welcomed his sponsorship with John McCain (R-AZ) of a climate change bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050, but were skeptical of his support for a bill promoting liquefied coal production. Obama also introduced the "Iraq War De-Escalation Act", a bill to cap troop levels in Iraq, begin phased redeployment, and remove all combat brigades from Iraq before April 2008.
Later in 2007, Obama sponsored with Kit Bond (R-MO) an amendment to the 2008 Defense Authorization Act adding safeguards for personality disorder military discharges, and calling for a review by the Government Accounting Office following reports that the procedure had been used inappropriately to reduce government costs. He sponsored the "Iran Sanctions Enabling Act" supporting divestment of state pension funds from Iran's oil and gas industry, and joined Chuck Hagel (R-NE) in introducing legislation to reduce risks of nuclear terrorism. A provision from the Obama-Hagel bill was passed by Congress in December 2007 as an amendment to the State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill. Obama also sponsored a Senate amendment to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to provide one year of job protection for family members caring for soldiers with combat-related injuries. After passing both houses of Congress with bipartisan majorities, SCHIP was vetoed by President Bush in early October 2007, a move Obama said "shows a callousness of priorities that is offensive to the ideals we hold as Americans."
|This section contains information about one or more candidates in an upcoming or ongoing election. |
Content may change as the election approaches.
In February 2007, standing before the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois, Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Describing his working life in Illinois, and symbolically linking his presidential campaign to Abraham Lincoln's 1858 House Divided speech, Obama said: "That is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States of America." Speaking at a Democratic National Committee meeting one week before the February announcement, Obama called for putting an end to negative campaigning. "This can't be about who digs up more skeletons on who, who makes the fewest slip-ups on the campaign trail," he said. "We owe it to the American people to do more than that."
Obama's campaign raised US$58 million during the first half of 2007, topping all other candidates and exceeding previous records for the first six months of any year before an election year. Small donors, those contributing in increments of less than $200, accounted for $16.4 million of Obama's record-breaking total, more than for any other Democratic candidate. His campaign reported adding 108,000 new donors through third quarter fundraising, for a total of 365,000 individual contributors in the first nine months. Amid concerns for his safety as the first black candidate seen as having a viable chance of being elected president, the U.S. government assigned Secret Service protection to Obama 18 months before the general election.
With two months remaining before the Iowa Democratic caucuses and New Hampshire Democratic primary, 2008, and national opinion polls showing him trailing Hillary Clinton, Obama began directly charging his top rival with failing to clearly state her political positions. Campaigning in Iowa, he told the Washington Post that as the Democratic nominee he would draw more support than Clinton from independent and Republican voters in the general election. At Iowa's Jefferson-Jackson fundraising dinner in November 2007, he expanded the theme, saying that his presidency would "bring the country together in a new majority" to seek solutions to long-standing problems. In January 2008, Obama won the Iowa caucus with 37.58% support, ahead of 29.75% for John Edwards and 29.47% for Clinton. His Iowa lead was boosted by majority support from a record turnout of voters under 30 years old, most of them first-time caucus goers. Five days later, Clinton won the New Hampshire primary by 39% of the votes to Obama's 37%.
- See also: Political positions of Barack Obama
On the role of government in economic affairs, Obama has written: "We should be asking ourselves what mix of policies will lead to a dynamic free market and widespread economic security, entrepreneurial innovation and upward mobility [...] we should be guided by what works." Speaking before the National Press Club in April 2005, he defended the New Deal social welfare policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt, associating Republican proposals to establish private accounts for Social Security with social Darwinism. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Obama spoke out against government indifference to growing economic class divisions, calling on both political parties to take action to restore the social safety net for the poor. Shortly before announcing his presidential campaign, Obama told the health care advocacy group Families USA: "I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country."
Meeting with Google employees in November 2007, Obama pledged to appoint a Chief Technology Officer to oversee the U.S. government's management of IT resources and promote wider access to government information and decision making. Reaffirming his commitment to net neutrality legislation, Obama said "once providers start to privilege some applications or web sites over others, then the smaller voices get squeezed out, and we all lose." Campaigning in New Hampshire, he announced an $18 billion plan for investments in early childhood education, math and science education, and expanded summer learning opportunities. Obama's campaign distinguished his proposals to reward teachers for performance from traditional merit pay systems, assuring unions that changes would be pursued through the collective bargaining process.
At the Tax Policy Center in September 2007, he blamed special interests for distorting the U.S. tax code. "We are taxing income from work at nearly twice the level that we're taxing gains for investors," Obama said. "We've lost the balance between work and wealth." His plan would eliminate taxes for senior citizens with incomes of less than $50,000 a year, repeal tax cuts said to favor the wealthy, close corporate tax loopholes and restrict offshore tax havens, and simplify filing of income tax returns by pre-filling wage and bank information already collected by the IRS. Announcing his presidential campaign's energy plan in October 2007, Obama said: "Businesses don’t own the sky, the public does, and if we want them to stop polluting it, we have to put a price on all pollution." He proposed a cap and trade auction system to restrict carbon emissions and a 10 year program of investments in new energy sources to reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil.
Obama was an early opponent of Bush administration policies on Iraq. In the fall of 2002, before the start of the Iraq War, he addressed an anti-war rally in Chicago, saying:
I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.
Speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in November 2006, Obama called for a "phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq" and an opening of diplomatic dialogue with Syria and Iran. In a March 2007 speech to AIPAC, a pro-Israel lobby, he said that while the U.S. "should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons." Detailing his strategy for fighting global terrorism in August 2007, Obama said "it was a terrible mistake to fail to act" against a 2005 meeting of al-Qaeda leaders that U.S. intelligence had confirmed to be taking place in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He said that as president he would not miss a similar opportunity.
In a December 2005 Washington Post opinion column, and at the Save Darfur rally in April 2006, Obama called for more assertive action to oppose genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. He has divested $180,000 in personal holdings of Sudan-related stock, and has urged divestment from companies doing business in Iran. In the July-August 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs, Obama called for an outward looking post-Iraq War foreign policy and the renewal of American military, diplomatic, and moral leadership in the world. Saying "we can neither retreat from the world nor try to bully it into submission," he called on Americans to "lead the world, by deed and by example."
Obama has encouraged Democrats to reach out to evangelicals and other religious 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." In December 2006, he joined Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) at the "Global Summit on AIDS and the Church" organized by church leaders Kay and Rick Warren. Together with Warren and Brownback, Obama took an HIV test, as he had done in Kenya less than four months earlier. He encouraged "others in public life to do the same" to show "there is no shame in going for an HIV test." Before the conference, 18 pro-life groups published an open letter stating, in reference to Obama's support for legal abortion: "In the strongest possible terms, we oppose Rick Warren's decision to ignore Senator Obama's clear pro-death stance and invite him to Saddleback Church anyway." Addressing over 8,000 United Church of Christ members in June 2007, Obama challenged "so-called leaders of the Christian Right" for being "all too eager to exploit what divides us."
Obama met his future wife, Michelle Robinson, in 1988 when he was employed as a summer associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin. Assigned for three months as Obama's advisor at the firm, Robinson joined him at group social functions, but declined his initial offers to date. They began dating later that summer, became engaged in 1991, and were married in October 1992. The couple's first daughter, Malia Ann, was born in 1999, followed by a second daughter, Natasha ("Sasha"), in 2001. Applying the proceeds of a $2 million book deal, the family paid off debts in 2005 and moved from a Hyde Park, Chicago condominium to their current $1.6-million house in neighboring Kenwood. The house purchase and subsequent acquisition of an adjoining strip of land drew media scrutiny in November 2006 because of financial links with controversial Illinois businessman Antoin Rezko.
Obama plays basketball, a sport he participated in as a member of his high school's varsity team. Before announcing his presidential candidacy, he began a well-publicized effort to quit smoking. "I've never been a heavy smoker," Obama told the Chicago Tribune. "I've quit periodically over the last several years. I've got an ironclad demand from my wife that in the stresses of the campaign I don't succumb. I've been chewing Nicorette strenuously." Replying to an Associated Press survey of 2008 presidential candidates' personal tastes, he specified "architect" as his alternate career choice and "chili" as his favorite meal to cook. Asked to name a "hidden talent," Obama answered: "I'm a pretty good poker player."
A theme of Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and the title of his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope, was inspired by his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. In Chapter 6 of the book, titled "Faith," Obama writes that he "was not raised in a religious household." He describes his mother, raised by non-religious parents, as detached from religion, yet "in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known." He describes his Kenyan father as "raised a Muslim," but a "confirmed atheist" by the time his parents met, and his Indonesian stepfather as "a man who saw religion as not particularly useful." The chapter details how Obama, in his twenties, while working with local churches as a community organizer, came to understand "the power of the African American religious tradition to spur social change." Obama writes: "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."
Obama has written two bestselling books. The first, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was published after his graduation from law school and before running for public office. In it he recalls his childhood in Honolulu and Jakarta, college years in Los Angeles and New York City, and his employment as a community organizer in Chicago in the 1980s. The book's last chapters describe his first visit to Kenya, a journey to connect with his Luo family and heritage. In his preface to the 2004 revised edition, Obama explains that he had hoped the story of his family "might speak in some way to the fissures of race that have characterized the American experience, as well as the fluid state of identity—the leaps through time, the collision of cultures—that mark our modern life." Time magazine's Joe Klein wrote that the book "may be the best-written memoir ever produced by an American politician." The audiobook edition earned Obama the 2006 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album.
His second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, was published in October 2006, three weeks before the 2006 midterm election. It was an immediate bestseller and rose to the top of the New York Times Best Seller list by early November 2006. The Chicago Tribune credits the large crowds that gathered at book signings with influencing Obama's decision to run for president. Former presidential candidate Gary Hart describes the book as Obama's "thesis submission" for the U.S. presidency: "It presents a man of relative youth yet maturity, a wise observer of the human condition, a figure who possesses perseverance and writing skills that have flashes of grandeur." Reviewer Michael Tomasky writes that it does not contain "boldly innovative policy prescriptions that will lead the Democrats out of their wilderness," but does show Obama's potential to "construct a new politics that is progressive but grounded in civic traditions that speak to a wider range of Americans." An Italian translation was published in April 2007 with a preface by Walter Veltroni, Mayor of Rome. Spanish and German editions were published in June 2007.
Cultural and political image
Supporters and critics have likened Obama's popular image to a cultural Rorschach test, a neutral persona on which people can project their personal histories and aspirations. Obama's own stories about his family origins reinforce what a May 2004 New Yorker magazine article described as his "everyman" image. In Dreams from My Father, he ties his maternal family history to possible Native American ancestors and distant relatives of Jefferson Davis, president of the southern Confederacy during the American Civil War. Speaking to an elderly Jewish audience during his 2004 campaign for U.S. Senate, Obama linked the linguistic root of his East African first name Barack to the Hebrew word baruch, meaning "blessed." In an October 2006 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Obama highlighted the diversity of his extended family: "Michelle will tell you that when we get together for Christmas or Thanksgiving, it's like a little mini-United Nations," he said. "I've got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I've got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher. We've got it all."
With his Kenyan father and white American mother, his upbringing in Honolulu and Jakarta, and Ivy League education, Obama's early life experiences differ markedly from those of African American politicians who launched their careers in the 1960s through participation in the civil rights movement. During his Democratic primary campaign for U.S. Congress in 2000, two rival candidates charged that Obama was not sufficiently rooted in Chicago's black neighborhoods to represent constituents' concerns. In January 2007, "The End of Blackness" author Debra Dickerson warned against drawing favorable cultural implications from Obama's political rise. "Lumping us all together," Dickerson wrote in Salon, "erases the significance of slavery and continuing racism while giving the appearance of progress." Film critic David Ehrenstein, writing in a March 2007 Los Angeles Times article, compared the cultural sources of Obama's favorable polling among whites to those of "magical negro" roles played by black actors in Hollywood movies. Expressing puzzlement over questions about whether he is "black enough," Obama told an August 2007 meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists that the debate is not about his physical appearance or his record on issues of concern to black voters. "What it really lays bare," Obama offered, is that "we're still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong."
Writing about Obama's political image in a March 2007 Washington Post opinion column, Eugene Robinson characterized him as "the personification of both-and," a messenger who rejects "either-or" political choices, and could "move the nation beyond the culture wars" of the 1960s. Obama, who defines himself in The Audacity of Hope as "a Democrat, after all," has been criticized by progressive commentator David Sirota for demonstrating too much "Senate clubbiness", and was encouraged to run for the U.S. presidency by conservative columnist George Will. But in a December 2006 Wall Street Journal editorial headlined "The Man from Nowhere," former Ronald Reagan speech writer Peggy Noonan advised Will and other "establishment" commentators to avoid becoming too quickly excited about Obama's still early political career. Echoing the inaugural address of John F. Kennedy, Obama acknowledged his youthful image, saying in an October 2007 campaign speech, "I wouldn't be here if, time and again, the torch had not been passed to a new generation."
Recognition and honors
An October 2005 article in the British journal New Statesman listed Obama as one of "10 people who could change the world." In 2005 and again in 2007, Time magazine named him one of "the world's most influential people." During his first three years in the U.S. Senate, Obama received Honorary Doctorates of Law from Knox College (2005), University of Massachusetts Boston (2006), Northwestern University (2006), Xavier University of Louisiana (2006), Southern New Hampshire University (2007), and Howard University (2007).
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