Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Barack Obama Detailed Biography


Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961, to Barack Obama, Sr. (born in Nyanza Province, Kenya) 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. Barack Obama's birthname is Barack Hussein Obama.

Barack Obama 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, Barack Obama grew up in culturally diverse surroundings. He spent most of his childhood in the majority-minority U.S. state of Hawaii and lived for four years in Indonesia. After graduating from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Barack Obama worked as a community organizer, university lecturer, and civil rights lawyer before entering politics. He served in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, launching his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2003.

Barack 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, Barack Obama co-sponsored the enactment of conventional weapons control and transparency legislation, and made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

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, Barack 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 entitled Dreams from My Father, and The Audacity of Hope, a personal commentary on U.S. politics.

Barack 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, where he died in an auto accident when the younger Obama was twenty-one years old. His mother married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian foreign student, with whom she had one daughter, Maya. The family moved to Jakarta in 1967, where Barack Obama attended local schools from ages 6 to 10. He then returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents while attending Punahou School from 5th grade until his graduation in 1979. Barack Obama's mother died of ovarian cancer a few months after the publication of his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father.

In the memoir, Barack Obama describes his experiences growing up in his mother's American middle class family. His knowledge about his absent Luo father came mainly through family stories and photographs. Of his early childhood, Barack 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 used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years, Barack Obama writes, to "push questions of who I was out of my mind."

After graduating from Punahou, Barack Obama studied at Occidental College for two years, then transferred to Columbia University, where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations. He received his B.A. degree in 1983, then worked for one year at Business International Corporation. In 1985, Barack Obama moved to Chicago to direct a non-profit project assisting local churches to organize job training programs. 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, Barack 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.

Barack 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 overwhelmingly reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998 and 2002, officially resigning in November 2004, following his election to the U.S. Senate. Among his major accomplishments as a state legislator, Barack Obama's U.S. Senate web site lists: "creating programs like the state Earned Income Tax Credit"; "an expansion of early childhood education"; and "legislation requiring the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases." Reviewing Barack Obama's career in the Illinois Senate, a February 2007 article in the Washington Post noted his work with both Democrats and Republicans in drafting bipartisan legislation on ethics and health care reform. During his 2004 U.S. Senate campaign, Barack 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," despite his support for some bills the police union had opposed. He was also 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.

Obama was sworn in as a Senator on January 4, 2005. He hired former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle's ex-chief of staff for the same position, and Karen Kornbluh, an economist who was deputy chief of staff to former Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin, as his policy adviser. In July 2005, Samantha Power, Pulitzer-winning author on human rights and genocide, joined Obama's team. An October 2005 article in the British journal New Statesman listed Barack Obama as one of "10 people who could change the world." Three months into his Senate career, and again in 2007, Time magazine named Obama one of "the world's most influential people." During his first two and a half years in the Senate, Barack Obama received Honorary Doctorates of Law from Knox College, University of Massachusetts Boston, Northwestern University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Southern New Hampshire University. He is a member of the Senate committees on Foreign Relations; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Veterans' Affairs; and the Congressional Black Caucus.

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, Barack 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." The announcement followed months of speculation on whether Obama would run in 2008. Barack 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.

In 1988, while employed as a summer associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin, Obama met Michelle Robinson, who also worked there. They were married in 1992 and have two daughters, Malia, born in 1999, and Natasha ("Sasha"), born in 2001. The family moved from their Hyde Park, Chicago condominium to a nearby US$1.6-million home in 2005. Barack 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," Barack 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," Barack 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 step-father 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." Barack 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."

Barack Obama has authored 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 entering politics. 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.

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