Profile of Barack Obama
Thu, November 6, 2008 Leave a comment
Profile of Barack Obama
Senator Barack Obama has been elected as the United States first African-American president.
In a country marked by centuries of racial tension and violence, the Illinois senator has achieved a place in history.
Obama won the White House race following a groundbreaking campaign that drew on the backing of African-Americans and young voters.
But Obama’s message of “change” also turned it into a fundraising phenomenon, raising hundreds of million dollars, 99 per cent of it from individual donors.
Critics say that Obama’s campaign was based on style rather than substance and he has been attacked by some commentators for having appeared to have shied away from making definitive policy statements.
In recent months he has been accused of revising, and even backtracking, on some of his positions on key issues such as the Middle East peace process.
The son of a Kenyan father and American mother, Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961.
After his parents’ divorce, his mother remarried and he lived in Indonesia for several years.
He later obtained his degree in New York and spent several years working for church groups assisting the poor in Chicago in the Midwestern state of Illinois.
Obama eventually, like several other presidential candidates, entered the legal profession, becoming the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review while obtaining his law degree.
He then returned to Chicago, teaching and working as a civil rights lawyer before entering the Illinois state senate in 1997.
Path to fame
In 2004, Obama was elected to the US senate, only the third African-American to achieve such a post since the US’s Reconstruction era of the late 19th century, as his website proudly touts.
Not long afterwards, Obama delivered the keynote speech at the Democratic party’s annual convention in Boston, Massachusetts, in which he criticised George Bush, the US president at the time, and called for an end to the Iraq war.
The speech sparked national interest in the young senator, and soon led to breathless queries from the media over whether he would announce his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.
When he finally did so, there was media frenzy. The young, photogenic senator was feted by many as the new face of the Democrats.
But it took a long, at times bitter and often bruising presidential primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady, for Obama to clinch the Democratic nomination.
And after capturing the nomination Obama had to move quickly to wrest initiative from Republican nominee John McCain.
The fact an African-American with a Muslim heritage has become the new US president has raised hopes of many people around the world for changes in US foreign policy, particularly in the Middle East.
However in his first major speech after he won his party’s nomination Obama angered many Arabs when he told Aipac, the highly influential pro-Israel US lobby group, that Jerusalem should be the undivided capital of Israel.
Those fears were heightened during Obama’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, when he once again underlined his support for Israel.
However, on Iraq and Iran, Obama has said he will chart a very different course from that of the Bush administration.
Obama has also made much of his early opposition to the war on Iraq and his stated policy is to withdraw US troops from the country.
The Illinois senator has also said he could be prepared to negotiate with the leaders of countries that are perceived to be hostile to the US, such as Iran and Cuba.
At home, however, Obama is going to have to work hard to quell concerns over his perceived lack of experience in foreign policy.
During his drawn-out primary battle, Obama struggled to win the votes of white, working-class voters in many areas.
And while polls have indicated that Obama was the favourite for the presidency among most countries across the world, it is his own people he must carry with him if he is to make history as a successful 44th US president.