Kamis, 06 November 2008

Profile: Barack Obama

source : http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/3936013.stm
Barack Obama campaigning in Virginia, 28 Oct
Voters across the US backed Barack Obama's bid for the White House

Barack Obama made history on 4 November 2008 when he defeated Republican rival John McCain to become the first black president of the United States.

He had already broken new ground in his White House campaign, as the first black candidate to become the presidential choice of either major US party.

To many people, Mr Obama seemed to come from nowhere. Although he had served in the Illinois state senate for eight years, it was only in 2004 that he shot to national prominence, with a speech that stirred the Democratic National Convention.

And it was only in the two years leading up to the election that his name, face and story became known beyond America.

The senator clinched the Democratic nomination after a long and gruelling battle against former first lady Hillary Clinton - a contest that gripped the US from January to June 2008.

In the course of campaigning, Senator Obama broke all records for fundraising, by harnessing the internet to collect huge numbers of small donations, as well as larger sums from corporate donors.

He has also demonstrated the ability to gather crowds of 100,000 people or more to his rallies, and to generate a buzz seldom seen in US politics.

Shortly after his presidential victory was confirmed, he addressed a cheering mass in his home city of Chicago.

"It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America," he said.

Media darling

Mr Obama, 47, electrified the 2004 Democratic National Convention in a speech about self reliance and high aspiration.

The son of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas, he emphasised his personal history in a speech reflecting traditional American ideals of self-reliance and aspirations.

Born 4 Aug 1961 in Hawaii
Studied law at Harvard
Worked as a civil rights lawyer in Chicago
Served in Illinois state senate 1996-2004
Elected to the US Senate in 2004

"Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place - America, which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before," he said.

After his landslide US Senate election victory in Illinois a few months later, he became a media darling and one of the most visible figures in Washington, with two best-selling books to his name.

He won the early backing of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey, who not only urged him to declare his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination on her programme but appeared on the campaign trail with him.

As a senator, Mr Obama established a firmly liberal voting record, but also worked with Republican colleagues on issues such as HIV/Aids-education and prevention.

An early critic of the Iraq war, he spoke out against the prospect of war several months before the March 2003 invasion.

His bid for the presidency was endorsed by such senior Republican figures as former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Scott McClellan, the former White House spokesman for President George W Bush.

Mrs Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, also rallied behind Mr Obama in the months after he won the nomination and campaigned on his behalf.

International upbringing

Mr Obama is named after his father, who grew up in Kenya herding goats but gained a scholarship to study in Hawaii.

There the Kenyan met and married Mr Obama's mother, Ann, who was living in Honolulu with her parents.

An Obama supporter in Pennsylvania, 27 Oct 2008
Mr Obama generated a buzz not often seen in US politics
When Mr Obama was a toddler, his father got a chance to study at Harvard but there was no money for the family to go with him. He later returned to Kenya alone, where he worked as a government economist, and the couple divorced.

When Mr Obama was six, his mother married an Indonesian man and the family moved to Jakarta.

Although his father and step-father were Muslim, Mr Obama is a Christian and attended secular and Catholic schools during the four years he lived in Indonesia, a largely Muslim country.

He then moved back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents and attend school.

Mr Obama went on to study political science at Columbia University in New York, and then moved to Chicago where he spent three years as a community organiser.

In 1988 he left to attend Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.

After Harvard, Mr Obama returned to Chicago to practise civil rights law, representing victims of housing and employment discrimination. He served in the Illinois state senate from 1996 to 2004.

He is married to a lawyer, Michelle, and they have two young daughters, Malia and Sasha.


The senator attended the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for almost two decades but broke away from it in May 2008 after controversial sermons by Trinity preachers hit the headlines.

Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, hold hands with their two daughters, Malia (second right) and Sasha
Mr Obama has two young daughters with his wife, Michelle

The Rev Jeremiah Wright was quoted as saying the 9/11 attacks were like "chickens coming home to roost" and that God should damn America for treating black people as "less than human".

Seeking to defuse the uproar, Mr Obama tackled the issue of race directly, calling on the US to move beyond its long history of racial inequality.

"The anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races," he said.

Mr Obama used to joke that people were always getting his name wrong, calling him "Alabama" or "Yo Mama".

Now, as he waits to be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, it seems unlikely that many will continue to make such a mistake.

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