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February 15 – Barack Obama

Today is President’s Day, so I thought it only appropriate that we talk about a President. So here’s an easy one… Name the 44th elected President of the United States of America…

Of course, the 44th President is none other than Barack Obama, the first African American ever elected to the highest office in the country. He also just so happens to be the first ever born in Hawaii.

Born Barack Hussein Obama II on August 4, 1961, he is the son of Ann Dunham from Wichita, Kansas and Barack Obama, Sr., a Luo from Nyang’oma Kogelo, Nyanza Province, Kenya Colony. His parents met while studying at the University of Hawaii, where his father was a foreign student attending on scholarship. After a brief courtship, the two were married, and Barack was born soon after. Two years later, however, his parents divorced, his father returned to Kenya, and his mother remarried to an Indonesian student named Lolo Soetoro.

Barack’s childhood was atypical to say the least. “Borne of two worlds,” as he would commonly say later, he was the son of one mixed-race relationship, the stepson/stepbrother of another, raised and educated in both Indonesia and multi-cultural Hawaii. All of these factors generated significant and often difficult questions about his own identity which he initially tried ignoring (with the assistance of alcohol and drugs while a teenager), but which he eventually confronted and reconciled as he grew older and developed a more mature view of the world and his place in it. He discusses this transformation candidly and at length in his auto-biography “Dreams From My Father,” which I recommend reading if you haven’t already.

After graduating from Punahou College Preparatory School:

  • Obama graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with a focus on International Relations
  • Worked as a community organizer in Chicago
  • Graduated from Harvard Law School (where he was president of the Harvard Law Review)
  • Served as a Lecturer and Sr. Lecturer at Chicago Law School for 12 years
  • Practiced law for a civil rights litigation firm for 11 years
  • Served on the board of directors for the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Joyce Foundation, AND the Chicago Annenberg Challenge
  • Served 3 terms in the Illinois Senate
  • Delivered his now famous keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (seen by 9.1 million viewers), and
  • Served as the junior US Senator from Illinois for four years

… all this in the span of about 25 years!

Although it seems difficult to believe, 3 years have already passed since Barack Obama officially announced his candidacy for the Presidency. His main contender within the Democratic Party was Hillary Rodham Clinton, who he later appointed his Secretary of State. After securing the Democratic nomination, he and Delaware Senator Joe Biden went on to face Senator John McCain and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin in the ensuing debates and general election. In November 2008, Obama won both the electoral and popular vote (365-173; 52.9%-45.7%), officially making him the first Black US President in history.

thanks for reading,

francis

“If the language, the humor, the stories of ordinary people were the stuff out of which families, communities, economies would have to be built, then I couldn’t separate that strength from the hurt and distortions that lingered around us. And it was the implications of that fact, I realized, that had most disturbed me. The stories that I had been hearing from the leadership, all the records of courage and sacrifice and overcoming of great odds, hadn’t simply arisen from struggles with pestilence or drought, or mere poverty. They had arisen out of a very particular experience with hate. That hate hadn’t gone away; it formed a counter-narrative buried deep within each person and at the center of which stood white people-some cruel, some ignorant, sometimes a single face, sometimes just a faceless image of a system claiming power over our lives. I had to ask myself whether the bonds of community could be restored without collectively exorcising that ghostly figure that haunted black dreams..” ~ from Dreams From My Father, by Barack Obama

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