Monday, April 10, 2017

The early life of former President Barack Obama

To understand the legacy of President Barack Obama, you have to understand his life. Barack Obama studied at Occidental College for 2 years in Los Angeles, California. By February 18, 1981, he made his first public speech. He called for Occidental’s divestment from South Africa. In the summer of 1981, Barack Obama traveled into Jakarta, Indonesia to visit his mother and half-sister Maya. He also visited the families of Occidental College friends in Hyderabad (in India) and Karachi (in Pakistan) for 3 weeks. He later transferred to Columbia University in New York City. He majored in political science with a specialization in international relations. During this time period of his life, he lived off campus in a modest rented apartment at 142 West 109th St. He graduated with an A.B. from Columbia in 1983. Soon afterwards, he worked at Business International Corporation and New York Public Interest Research Group.  After working in New York for four years, Barack Obama moved into Chicago. In Chicago, he became a community organizer. He worked for three years from June 1985 to May 1988 as director of Developing Communities Project (or DCP). DCP is a church based community organization. It was at first made up of eight Catholic parishes in Greater Roseland (Roseland, West Pullman, and Riverdale) on Chicago’s far South Side. He was a DCP Director for 3 years. The staff grew from 1 to 14 in that timespan. Its annual budget grew from $70,000 to $400,000. The program caused a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring programs, and a tenant’s rights organization in Altgeld Gardens. Barack Obama worked as a consultant and instructor for Gamaliel Foundation, which is a community organizing institute. By the summer of 1988, he traveled to Europe for three weeks and to Kenya for 5 weeks where he met many of his paternal relatives for the first time. Barack Obama entered Harvard Law School in late 1988. In an interview with Ebony in 1990, he stated that he saw a degree in law as a vehicle to facilitate better community organization and activism: "The idea was not only to get people to learn how to hope and dream about different possibilities, but to know how the tax structure affects what kind of housing gets built where." At the end of his first year he was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review based on his grades and a writing competition. In February 1990, his second year at Harvard, he was elected president of the law review, a full-time volunteer position functioning as editor-in-chief and supervising the law review's staff of 80 editors. Obama's election as the first black president of the law review was widely reported and followed by several long, detailed profiles.

Barack Obama was elected by convincing a crucial swing bloc of conservatives that he would protect their interests if they supported him. He listened to people like he listened to poor people in the neighborhood of South Side Chicago, etc.  Richard Epstein, who later taught at the University of Chicago Law School when Obama later taught there, said Obama was elected editor "because people on the other side believed he would give them a fair shake." When he was in law school, he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley & Austin in 1989. In that place, he met his future wife, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama. Newton N. Minow was a managing partner. Minow would introduce Obama to some of Chicago’s top business leaders. He worked at Hopkins & Sutter in the summer of 1990. Also during his law school years, Obama spent eight days in Los Angeles taking a national training course on Alinsky methods of organizing. He graduated with a J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991 and returned to Chicago. He has great publicity from his election as the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He had a contract and advance to write a book about race relations. The University of Chicago Law School wanted to recruit him to join their faculty. So, they provided Obama a fellowship and an office to work on his book. He at first wanted to write his book in one year. It took longer, because the book evolved into his own personal memoir. He wanted to work without interruptions. So, Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, traveled into Bali where he wrote for several months. The manuscript was finally published as “Dreams from My Father” in mid-1995. He married Michelle Obama in 1992. They settled down with each other in Hyde Park. That is a liberal, integrated, and middle class Chicago neighborhood. It has a history of electing reform minded politicians independent of the Daley political machine. The couple's first daughter, Malia Ann, was born in 1998; their second, Natasha (known as Sasha), in 2001. Their marriage caused them to form more links with Chicago politicians. One of Michelle’s best friends is Jesse Jackson’s daughter, Santita Jackson. Santita is the godmother of Obama’s first child. Michelle Obama once worked as an aide to Mayor Richard M. Daley.  Marty Nesbitt, a young, successful black businessman (who played basketball with Michelle's brother, Craig Robinson), became Obama's best friend and introduced him to other African-American business people. Before the marriage, according to Craig, Obama talked about his political ambitions, even saying that he might run for president someday.

Barack Obama was involved in Project Vote from April to October 1992. It was a nonpartisan voting drive that helped Carol Moseley Braun to be the first black women ever elected to the Senate. He helped to register up to 400,000 African Americans to vote in the state. His staff was made up of 10 and 700 volunteers. Crain’s Chicago Business named Obama to its 1993 list of “40 under Forty” powers to be. According to Sandy Newman, who founded Project Vote, Obama "raised more money than any of our state directors had ever done. He did a great job of enlisting a broad spectrum of organizations and people, including many who did not get along well with one another." The wealthy elite of Chicago from the liberal crowd contacted Obama. Many of them would be his supporters in his future political career. One of them would be David Axelrod who would be head of his campaign for President. The fundraising committee was chaired by John Schmidt, a former chief of staff to Mayor Richard M. Daley, and John W. Rogers Jr., a young black money manager and founder of Ariel Capital Management. Obama also met much of the city's black political leadership, although he didn't always get along with the older politicians, with friction sometimes developing over Obama's reluctance to spend money and his insistence on results. "He really did it, and he let other people take all the credit", Schmidt later said. "The people standing up at the press conferences were Jesse Jackson and Bobby Rush and I don't know who else. Barack was off to the side and only the people who were close to it knew he had done all the work." From 1992 to 1996, Barack Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. He was a senior lecturer from 1996 to 2004. He taught courses in due process and equal protection (including the issues of voting rights, racism, and law). He joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, which was a 12 attorney law firm. It was involved in civil rights litigation and economic development. The firm worked with Chicago’s black community for years. He wanted to go into politics. He was also a lawyer. He was involved in 30 cases. He worked on voting rights cases. He worked in the Joyce Foundation. By 1995, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for a seat in the Illinois state Senate and he attended Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March in Washington, D.C.

Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996. He succeeded Democratic State Senator Alice Palmer from Illinois’s 13th District. He gained bipartisan support for supported ethics reform and health care laws. He sponsored a law that increased tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for childcare. Barack Obama was a state Senator from 1997 to 2004. He was reelected in 1998. He sponsored bipartisan passage of legislation to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they detained, and legislation making Illinois the first state to mandate videotaping of homicide interrogations. He was U.S. Senator by November of 2004. By this time, he was an early opponent of George W. Bush’s administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. He spoke out against the war in October 2, 2002 and in March of 2003 in an anti-war rally. In 2004, he gave his historic Democratic National Convention speech of July of 2004. It was a very eloquent speech about hope, coming together, and transcending political differences. Barack Obama was sworn in as Senator on January 3, 2005. He was the only U.S. Senator member back then who was a member of the Congressional Black Caucus. He voted on legislation. He would resign on November 16, 2008 before he was inaugurated as President. As a Senator, he fought for immigration reform, the reduction of nuclear weapons, and financial transparency. In December 2006, President Bush signed into law the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act, marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor. In January 2007, Obama and Senator Feingold introduced a corporate jet provision to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which was signed into law in September 2007. He worked with Democrats and Republicans like Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana. He worked on many committees too.

On February 10, 2007, Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He did so in the front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. He wanted to speak at that location as it is viewed as symbolic since it was where Abraham Lincoln gave his historic “House Divided” speech in 1858. In other words, Barack Obama wanted to break down divisions and want to form a unified America. Barack Obama talked about ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence reforming health care, and other themes. Throughout his campaign, he talked about the themes of hope and change. In fact, the theme of his campaign would be "Hope and Change." Many celebrities and young people were enthusiastic supporters of his campaign. There were many candidates in the Democratic Party Presidential primaries. Later, it was narrowed to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton (both Senators at the time). It was a close campaign in the beginning and then Barack Obama gained the led in pledged delegates. The reason for this was that Barack Obama’s campaign executed a historic long range planning, better fundraising, organizing, and a better usage of the delegate allocation rules. On March 18, 2008, Barack Obama gave his “A More Perfect Union” speech in Philadelphia. It was historic and he shown his remarks in response to remarks made by Reverend Jeremiah Wright (ironically enough, Wright told the truth about many subjects from the evils of imperialism to the advocacy of racial justice). Barack Obama’s speech tried to appeal to both black people and white people including all America. His tone was conciliatory while acknowledging America has much to go on racial issues. In essence, the speech was about forming unity in America. Barack Obama called Wright’s comments wrong, but he realized that black people have every right to express anger at injustices. To that end, he called for the African-American community to "[bind] our particular grievances—for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs—to the larger aspirations of all Americans" and for the white community to acknowledge the "legacy of discrimination ... and current incidents of discrimination." The speech was very moderate, eloquent, nuisance, and a representation of Obama’s conciliatory tone. Some believe that it was one big factor of him winning the Presidential election (along with the massive support among African Americans, young people, college educated people, women, other minorities, etc.). By June 7, 2008, Hillary Clinton ended her campaign and endorsed Barack Obama. On August 23, 2008, Barack Obama announced his selection of Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his vice Presidential running mate. He gave his historic speech in the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado. The crowd was over 75,000 in Invesco Field at Mile High. Over 38 million people worldwide watched his speech. He made fundraising records, especially in dealing with small donations. On June 19, 2008, Obama became the first major-party presidential candidate to turn down public financing in the general election since the system was created in 1976. John McCain was his Republican opponent.  They had three debates. The 2008 Presidential campaign was filled with many events. There was the massive financial crisis. Obama was slandered by reactionaries as a Muslim, a socialist, not a citizen, and other words. He was called names by racists. The Obama campaign used the Internet like Myspace and Facebook to gather and grow supporters. Barack Obama traveled to Europe and the Middle East from July 23-28, 2008. John McCain and Sarah Palin lost the election.  On November 4, 2008, Obama won the presidency with 365 electoral votes to 173 received by McCain. Obama won 52.9% of the popular vote to McCain's 45.7%. He became the first African American to be elected president. Obama delivered his victory speech before hundreds of thousands of supporters in Chicago's Grant Park.

By Timothy

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