16 October 2008 ~ 0 Comments

Know the Candidates: Barack Obama (D)

Barack Obama (D)

Current Job:


Birth Date:

August 4, 1961




Columbia University, BA Political Science and International Relations
Harvard University, JD Law


Barack Obama was born in Hawaii, where his American mother and Kenyan father met while students at the University of Hawaii. His father returned to Kenya, where he became an official in the economics ministry, when Obama was 2.

He graduated from Columbia University and received his law degree from Harvard Law School. He became the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago and led a voter registration drive to help Bill Clinton. Obama is a senior instructor in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. He represented a South Side district in the Illinois Senate.

He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

He and his wife, Michelle, who is also a Harvard Law graduate, have two daughters.


Democrat Barack Obama has yet to complete his first term in the U.S. Senate, but he has already used his image as a force for change to launch a presidential bid and grab a place among the top contenders.

Obama’s bid for the White House is the highlight of a lightning-fast rise in American politics. His unusual background he is the Harvard-educated son of a white woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya has helped him cultivate an image as a fresh face in Washington willing to take on the establishment in his own party as well as Republicans. Yet Obama is dogged by rivals who question his experience to hold the nation’s top job.

“I know I haven’t spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change,” Obama told thousands of cheering supporters as he announced his presidential campaign in February 2007.

Obama stunned New York Sen. Hillary Clinton by winning the Iowa caucuses and finishing a close second in New Hampshire. Before that, he had consistently trailed Clinton in national polls as she emphasized her experience in Washington and the political asset represented by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. She has also jumped on some of Obama’s statements to portray him as out of his depth on foreign policy.

When Obama said he would meet with the leaders of hostile nations without any preconditions, Clinton and other critics labeled him naive. When he promised to take military action against terrorists in Pakistan if that nation’s government dragged its feet, they said he was threatening Muslim allies. And when he ruled out the use of nuclear weapons against terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan, they said it was foolish to take any options off the table.

Obama rejected such complaints. “My call for a new foreign policy is based on the same thing that informed my opposition to the war in Iraq: common sense, not conventional Washington thinking,” he said.

Obama was trounced in a 2000 primary bid for Congress, but that setback has been lost in his strikingly fast rise to national prominence.

His original opponent in the 2004 Senate race dropped out, and Obama crushed the replacement, out-of-state commentator Alan Keyes. The campaign began with a little-known state lawmaker driving around Illinois, trying to raise money and his profile. It ended with him a national political commodity, flush with cash, jetting across the country on behalf of other candidates.

Offered a chance to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, Obama came through with a memorable speech that used his personal story to highlight the country’s goals of tolerance and cooperation.

“There is not a liberal America and a conservative America there’s the UNITED STATES of America,” Obama told cheering delegates.

Since then, he has been besieged by autograph seekers, photographed for magazines by Richard Avedon and Annie Leibovitz and feted by Hollywood’s elite. His autobiography “Dreams from My Father,” written in 1995 rocketed onto the best-seller lists, as did his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope.” He was famously joined on the campaign trail late in 2007 by Oprah Winfrey, who has helped raise millions of dollars in campaign funds. Obama’s wife, Michelle, is also a popular draw on the campaign trail, though the couple insists on spending weekends with their two daughters.

In his memoir, Obama describes occasional struggles to fit in during his childhood in Indonesia and his high school years at a posh prep school in Hawaii. He also admits to rootless days as a teen experimenting with drugs. But he eventually took a path that led to Columbia University and work as a community organizer in Harlem and Chicago, where he worked in poor black neighborhoods hard hit by steel mill and plant closings. When he returned to Chicago after graduating from Harvard Law School, he registered voters for the 1992 election.

A confident man with an easygoing manner, Obama has said his diverse background probably contributes to his appeal, which crosses racial and geographic lines.

That appeal and a strong grassroots base have helped him raise extraordinary amounts of money to finance his presidential bid. In that sense, at least, he has kept pace with Sen. Clinton.

Obama’s past has received intense scrutiny for clues on his stances. As a state lawmaker, Obama worked to overhaul Illinois’ death penalty laws, require that police videotape interrogations in murder cases, create a tax credit for poor families and expand health care for children. He made friends and poker buddies on both sides of the aisle and was seen as pragmatic.

In the Senate, Obama has backed legislation to promote the use of ethanol and to increase fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. He has also advocated for the poor, particularly victims of Hurricane Katrina.

He teamed with conservative GOP Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to back legislation setting up an Internet database of all federal contracts and earmarks to enable citizens to track the way government spends their money.

Obama serves on the Foreign Relations; the Health, Education, Labor and Pension; the Homeland Security and Government Affairs and the Veterans’ Affairs committees.

The American Conservative Union gave Obama’s 2007 voting record a score of 7 points out of a possible 100. The liberal Americans for Democratic Action gave him 75 points.


Editor’s Note: Barack Obama gained enough delegates to become the Democratic Party’s nominee, June 3, besting Hillary Rodham Clinton.Barack Obama won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004, easily defeating transplanted resident Alan Keyes with 70 percent of the vote.He was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996. He faced no Republican opposition.He challenged U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush for the Democratic nomination for Congress in 2000, but finished with just 31 percent of the vote to Rush’s 61 percent.Rush supported Blair Hull in the 2004 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, but quickly closed ranks with Obama after his sweeping primary victory over six opponents.Obama was almost assured victory in the general election when the Republican candidate was forced from the race by scandal late in the election. Keyes garnered less than 30 percent of the vote.Obama formally announced his bid for president Feb. 10, 2007