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Running Head: Senator Barack Obama

Senator Barack Obama

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Obama Barack Hussein  is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and a member of the Democratic Party. The U.S. Senate Historical Office lists him as the fifth African American Senator in U.S. history and the only African American currently serving in the U.S. Senate. Born to a Kenyan father and an American mother, Obama grew up in ethnically assorted environment. He lived for the majority of his childhood in the majority-minority U.S. state of Hawaii and spent four of his pre-teen years in the multi-ethnic Indonesian capital city of Jakarta. 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, launching 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 went on to win election 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, and care for returned U.S. military personnel.( Malone, Jim (2007)

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He is among the Democratic Party's leading candidates for nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.  Since announcing his candidacy in February 2007, Obama has emphasized ending the Iraq War and implementing universal health care as campaign themes. He married in 1992 and has two daughters. He has authored 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. 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 worked with both Democrats and Republicans in drafting successful legislation on ethics and health care reform. 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, Obama won the endorsement of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police, whose president credited him with having been "immensely helpful in working with police organizations" on death penalty reform. He was criticized by a rival pro-choice candidate in the Democratic primary and by his Republican pro-life opponent in the general election for having voted either "present" or "no" on anti-abortion legislation. (Scott, Janny (2007)

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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 roots 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."

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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 for his political actions by self-described progressive commentator David Sirota, and complimented for his "can't we all just get along?" manner 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 get "down from your tippy toes" and 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. (Archibold, Randal C (2004)

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References

Malone, Jim (2007) "2008 US Presidential Campaign in Full Swing", Voice of America, May 18, 2007.

Archibold, Randal C (2004) "The Illinois Candidate; Day After, Keynote Speaker Finds Admirers Everywhere", New York Times, July 29.

Scott, Janny (2007) "In Illinois, Obama Proved Pragmatic and Shrewd", New York Times, July 30.

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