Her mother worked in the production line of bombers. At the end of the war, they pursued their studies through the G. I. Bill. With the Federal Housing Program they purchased their house and settled in Hawaii. In the 1950s, the Obamas’ Luo ethnic group was a frontrunner in Kenya’s struggle for independence. The Dunhams, on the other hand, were against slavery as early as the 1800s. Barack Obama’s parents met at the East-West Center, Manoa Campus of the University of Hawaii. Barack’s father was on a scholarship and was the first ever from a country in Africa. The marriage did not last, as interracial unions were not accepted.
In some states it was illegal. It was not much of a problem to the Dunhams but it was to the Obamas, who found it difficult to have a White American for a daughter in law. Under the circumstances, they had to divorce when Barack was two years old. Barack Sr. moved to Harvard on another scholarship for a Doctorate in Economics. Father and son met again when Barack was ten. They kept in touch through letters until Barack Sr. ’s return to Kenya and his death by car accident in the early 1980s. Barack’s mother remarried. Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian student of the East-West Center became her husband.
In 1967 when Barack was six they moved to Jakarta where Lolo got a job in an oil company. Barack’s half-sister Maya was born. Barack went to school in Jakarta where lessons were conducted in Indonesian. Barack or Barry returned to Hawaii when he was 10. He joined his grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham. His mother lived with them later until her death in 1995 due to ovarian cancer. In 1979, Barack graduated with honors at the renowned Punahou Academy. They were only 3 Black students in Punahou. It was at this time that became conscious as well as concerned about mixed racial heritage.
He was troubled about racism and his African-American background. He could not deal with his being African-American having a White American family. He turned to cocaine, marijuana and alcohol. Just like most teens of his background they needed an outlet for their inner rage and in the process tended to self-destruct. After Punahou, he transferred to Occidental College in Los Angeles where he got his act together. After two years he moved to the esteemed Columbia University in New York. He got to visit Kenya for the first time and renewed ties with his relatives.
He graduated from Columbia with a Degree in Political Science. For a while he involved himself in community work in Harlem. He decided he could not live to support himself with so little pay. He decided to leave New York and move to Chicago. The South Side of Chicago is an impoverished community. Barack worked as a community organizer for the poor residents of Roseland and the development of public housing for Altgeid Gardens. Law school beckoned. This time his application was accepted by Harvard Law School, one of the best in the country. He became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review Journal.
It opened doors of opportunities for him upon graduation. He graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1991. True enough, top Manhattan law firms came knocking on his door. $100,000 annual pay offers were turned down by Barack. He opted to return to Chicago to work for Miner, Barnhill & Galland as a civil rights lawyer. He handled housing and labor discrimination cases, taught at the Law School of the University of Chicago and organized voter registration drives. The large turnout of registered Black voters in Chicago, helped bring Bill Clinton straight to the White House in 1992. Chicago has a special place in Obama’s heart.
In 1988 while working as a summer associate in Sidley & Austin, a Chicago Law Firm, Michelle Robinson was assigned as his mentor. Michelle was also a graduate of Harvard Law School. She was from a Black, working-class family on the South Side. She and a brother who excelled in Basketball went to Princeton University. Michelle obtained her undergraduate degree at Princeton. Michelle became Mrs. Obama, when he married her in October 1992. They have two daughters, Malia and Sasha. Michelle and the girls have remained in Kenwood on Chicago’s South Side instead of moving to Washington. Michelle still works as an executive in a hospital.
In 1996 Barack Obama ran for and won a senate seat from Hyde Park, his home district. Hyde Park is the neighborhood around the University of Chicago. The community even with its upscale side has a high rate of crime and unemployment. Among Obama’s accomplishments are: tax breaks for the low-incomed, a state insurance to include uninsured children, increase health care services as well as education programs in early childhood for the poor, and tracking stops and speed of drivers by law enforcers. The latter was supposed to reduce discriminatory profiling by police patrol officers.
Another significant legislation was for police to videotape confessions on homicide cases. In 2000 he made a try for a congressional seat against Bobby Rush, a Black former member of the Chicago City Council. Rush was the founder of the Black Panther Party, Illinois Chapter. The Black Panther was the 1960s nationalist party of the revolutionary, radical Blacks. Rush capitalized on his experience and criticized Obama’s wealthy and white votes. Obama experienced his first major defeat garnering only 30% of the votes. In 2004 when Peter G. Fitzgerald (R, Illinois) bared plans of retirement, Obama made a bid for a senate seat.
When supporters thought it premature for him to aim for a position that high, they were certainly in for a big surprise. Obama garnered 53% of the votes in the primary, against 6 other challengers. This appeared to be a record high among African-Americans who figured prominently in white-populated precincts. These made the Democrats take him and his campaign more seriously. In the 2004 senate elections, he faced Jack Ryan of the Republicans. Ryan was a good-looking parochial school teacher, who used to be an investment banker. His former wife was Jeri Ryan, the star of Boston Public.
There were issues on the Ryans’ divorce that did not sit well with the Republican’s platform with regards to family values. Jack Ryan withdrew from the race. Alan Keyes, the talk show host from Maryland moved to Illinois to oppose Obama’s senate bid. Keyes’ adversarial stand on homosexuality and his two unsuccessful white house campaigns did not make him a strong opponent. With free trades that removed tariffs, US industries started to transfer their factories outside of the United States. Such meant great loss of jobs and employment. Obama’s campaign promise was a halt in bringing jobs overseas.
That swayed the votes for Obama. What would happen next would Obama’s defining moment. In the Democratic National Convention of July 2004 Obama delivered the keynote address of the convention as requested by John Kerry who would end up the party’s standard bearer. Much was expected of Obama and he delivered! He earned praises and standing ovations for his well-crafted speech and his eloquent delivery. He spoke about the need for America to unite in order that it may be strong. He reminded everyone of America’s diverse ethnicity and ideologies that made the county rich.
He said that the American way was to provide for all, not for just a few. If there was an elderly who was not at all related to him and was too poor to pay both rent and medicines, Barack Obama said, it made his life poorer. He said the people should mind what injustice is committed to his fellowmen like a brother to a brother. He believed that such acts of concern make America work. Analysts found in Obama’s speech a great amount of positivism, hope and optimism. They all found a promise in Obama, an emerging leader among the Democrats and possibly a near-future president of America.
70% of the votes of Illinois went to the 43 year old Obama with only 27% left for Keyes in the senatorial contest. In the US Senate of 2005, Obama was one of the youngest. His first significant legislation was the Higher Education Opportunity through the Pell Grant Expansion Act of 2005 or the HOPE Act. This was for those students who received financial aid for college from the Federal Government, the legislation aimed for an increase in the amount provided. He crossed party lines to seek support for important legislations. He teamed up with Sen.
Richard Lugar (R, Indiana) for a bill to expand efforts to destroy all weapons of mass destruction in Russia and Eastern Europe. Together with Sen. Tom Corburn (R, Oklahoma) they kept tight watch on government spending through a website they created. He and Sen. Russ Feingold (D, Wisconsin) also sought to stop the lobbyists from giving members of Congress gifts like travel on private jets. He raised vital issues on the senate floor like awareness of Avian flu and its threats, the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and its victims, alternative fuel sources and worked for better benefits for the veterans.
As senator he is on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Veterans Affairs Committee and the Environment and Public Affairs Committee. In US history, Obama is the fifth African American elected to the senate in 2005 and only the third towards the end of Reconstruction. Obama joined the few other Blacks who made it to the senate, the first ever was Hiram Rhoades Revels of North Carolina in 1870, Blanche K. Bruce of Virginia in 1875, Edward William Brooke III from Massachusetts in 1966, and Carol Moseley Braun from Illinois in 1992.
Braun is also the first African-American woman elected to the senate. Obama was a strong critic of President Bush’ policy on Iraq since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He spoke against using force in Iraq at the Chicago’s Federal Plaza rally of October 2002. Barack Obama opposed what he called “dumb wars” and was particularly concerned with the lives they had cost. He believed that there was a better way to handle Saddam Hussein. He saw Iraq’s economy battered and his military weak and that there was no way for Saddam but down.
He knew that the war in Iraq will be a protracted one with an unpredictable end, costs, and consequences. He warned that it could bring out the worst from the Middle East, the Arab world and the Al-Qaeda. He has authored two books, namely: (1) His autobiography “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” published in 1995, and (2) “The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream,” published in 2008. Obama announced that he is gunning for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. He is up against the Sen.
Hillary Rodham-Clinton. Works Cited “About Barack Obama. ” 2008. United States Senate. 6 May 2008 http://obama. senate. gov/about/ “Barack Obama Biography. ” 2006. Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. 6 May 2008 http://www. notablebiographies. com/news/Li-Ou/Obama-Barack. html “Barack Obama Biography (1961-)” 2008. bio. biographies. com. 6 May 2008 http://www. biography. com/search/article. do? id=12782369&page=1 “Meet Barack. ” 2008. Barack ’08. BarackObama. com. 6 May 2008 http://www. barackobama. com/about/