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A President In The Making

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A President in The Making

Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. born August 4, 1961 is the junior United States Senator from Illinois and a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. Born to a Kenyan father and an American mother, he spent most of his childhood in Honolulu, Hawaii. From ages six to ten, he lived in Jakarta with his mother and Indonesian stepfather. A graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, Obama worked as a community organizer, University of Chicago lecturer, and civil rights lawyer before running for public office and serving in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. After an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he announced his campaign for U.S. Senate in 2003.

The following year, while still an Illinois state legislator, Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in November 2004 with 70% of the vote. As a member of the Democratic minority in the 109th Congress, he co-sponsored bipartisan legislation for controlling conventional weapons and for promoting greater public accountability in the use of federal funds. He also made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. In the current 110th Congress, he has sponsored legislation on lobbying and electoral fraud, climate change, nuclear terrorism, and care for returned U.S. military personnel. As of February 21, 2008, Obama had sponsored or co-sponsored 570 bills in the 109th and 110th Congress, of which 15 have become law.

Since announcing his presidential campaign in February 2007, Obama has emphasized ending the Iraq War while maintaining a strong defense abroad, increasing energy independence, and providing universal health care as major priorities. He married in 1992 and has two daughters. He has written two bestselling books: a memoir of his youth titled Dreams from My Father, and The Audacity of Hope, a personal commentary on U.S. politics.

Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. (born in Nyanza Province, Kenya, of Luo ethnicity) and Ann Dunham (born in Wichita, Kansas). Throughout his early years, he was commonly known at home and school as "Barry". Obama's parents met while both were attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his father was enrolled as a foreign student. They 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 automobile accident in 1982. His mother married another foreign student, Lolo Soetoro, and the family moved to Soetoro's home country of Indonesia in 1967. Obama attended local schools in Jakarta from ages 6 to 10, where classes were taught in Indonesian. He then returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents while attending Punahou School from the fifth grade until his graduation in 1979. Obama's mother died of ovarian cancer a few months after the publication of his 1995 memoir, Dreams from My Father.

In the memoir, Obama describes his experiences growing up in his mother's American middle class family. His knowledge about his African father, who returned once for a brief visit in 1971, came mainly through family stories and photographs. Of his early childhood, 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 wrote that he used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years to "push questions of who I was out of my mind". Reflecting later on his formative years in Honolulu, Obama wrote: "The opportunity that Hawaii offered--to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect--became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear."

After high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles, where he studied at Occidental College for two years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations. Obama received his B.A. degree in 1983, then worked at Business International Corporation and New York Public Interest Research Group before moving to Chicago to take a job as a community organizer. As Director of the Developing Communities Project, he worked with low-income residents in Chicago's Roseland community and the Altgeld Gardens public housing development. 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, 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.

Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996 from the 13th District, which then spanned Chicago South Side neighborhoods from Hyde Park-Kenwood south to South Shore and west to Chicago Lawn. 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 reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998 and 2002 (when the 13th District was redrawn to span Chicago lakefront neighborhoods from the Gold Coast south to South Chicago). In January 2003, Obama became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee when Democrats, after a decade in the minority, regained a majority in the Illinois Senate. He resigned from the Illinois Senate in November 2004 following his election to the U.S. Senate. As a state legislator, Obama gained bipartisan support for legislation reforming ethics and health care laws. He sponsored a law enhancing tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for childcare. Obama also led the passage of legislation mandating videotaping of homicide interrogations, and a law to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they stopped. During his 2004 general election campaign for U.S. Senate, he won the endorsement of the Illinois Fraternal Order

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