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Published on September 29th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie10
Barack Obama: New Leader Filling The Void
Barack Obama With Joe Biden And Nancy Pelosi Photo By Pete Souza
Barack Obama has cut almost a revolutionary path through politics. A highly skilled orator, he has managed to do the seemingly impossible, give politician’s credibility and respect. As life in the presidency has become increasingly difficult, Obama’s diplomacy skills are being tested increasingly more and more.
Already a trailblazer in so many ways, the 44th President of the United States will always be remembered for being the first African American to lead America.
Barack Obama’s Early Life
Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the Kapi’olani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital, in August 4, 1961, to Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr.
Dunham and Obama Sr. were an unusual couple in the highly racist 1960s as she was white and he was black. Dunham was an anthropologist named after her father who had wanted a boy.
Obama Sr. was a Kenyan economist who travelled to study in America at Hawaii University, under a scholarship. Barack Obama would later write that this was a result of an initiative of the Kennedy family.
Drawing a link between his father and the Kennedy’s, Obama noted. ‘The Kennedy’s decided: “We’re doing an airlift. We are going to go to Africa and start bringing young Africans over to this country and give them scholarships to study so that they can learn what a wonderful country America is. This young man named Barack Obama got one of those tickets and came over to this country.“‘
However, the connection between the Kennedy’s has been dismissed by Michael Dobbs in the Washington Post. Dobbs notes that the Kennedy’s did not become involved with African scholarships until Obama Sr. was in his second year of study having already obtained a scholarship one year previously.
During his time at Hawaii University, Obama Sr. met Dunham and they became married on February 2, 1961. However, unbeknownst to Dunham was the fact that Obama Sr. was already married to another woman with whom he had four children.
In August 4, 1961, Barack was born to the couple and Dunham subsequently dropped out of University to look after her child.
The couple divorced in March 20, 1964, and Obama Sr. returned to Kenya and would visit his son just once before his death in November 24, 1982 from a car accident. He was 46 years of age.
His mother subsequently married an Indonesian by the name of Lolo Soetoro. The newly married couple, with young Barack, migrated to Indonesia where Obama went to school in Jakarta.
Obama, having transfered from Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1981, enrolled in Columbia University to study Political Science with a special emphasis on International Relations. He graduated in 1983 with a B.A. Later in 1988 he returned to formal education and attended Harvard Law School.
In his first year he was selected Editor of the Harvard Law Review. The following year he became President of the Harvard Law Review, a prestigious position in which he became the first ever African American to do so. He graduated with a Juris Doctorate in 1991.
Barack Obama Early Career
After graduating from Columbia University Obama worked for the Business International Corporation and the New York Public Interest Research Group. After moving to Chicago in 1985, Obama was employed as Director of the Developing Communities Project. The project consisted of trying to alleviate the social problems of the Black Community in Chicago’s South Side.
David Moberg of The Nation retells what Obama perceived of his time spent with the Communities Project: ‘I can’t say we didn’t make mistakes, that I knew what I was doing..Sometimes I called a meeting, and nobody showed up. Sometimes preachers said, “Why should I listen to you?” Sometimes we tried to hold politicians accountable, and they didn’t show up. I couldn’t tell whether I got more out of it than this neighborhood.’
In 1992, after graduating from Harvard Law School, Obama led a charge to get many of Illinois’s unregistered African Americans to register to vote.
From 1992 to 2004, Obama served as Professor of Constitutional Law at University of Chicago Law School as both Lecturer and Senior Lecturer.
In 1993, while he already was lecturing in law, he started his law career when he joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill and Galland as associate and latterly counsel until 2004 when his political career took precedence.
A law firm with a social dimension, Obama was part of legal team which sought to redress the imbalance between white and black candidates in City Council Elections. Obama was also part of the legal team which successfully challenged Citibank for making too few loans to African Americans who had identical economic circumstances as their Caucasian counterparts.
While working at Sidley Austin, a law firm in Chicago, Obama met his future wife, Michelle Robinson. After some initial refusals, Robinson finally consented and the couple began dating the summer of 1989. The couple got married on October 3, 1992 following a year of engagement. Malia Ann, their first daughter, was born on July 4,1998. Their second daughter, Natasha (known as Sasha) was born on June 10, 2001.
Obama began his career in politics by being elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996. Favouring a bi-partisan approach, he supported Republican Governor George Ryan’s regulations directed at reducing defaults on mortgage repayments.
In 1998 Obama was once again re-elected to Illinois Senate having defeated Yesse Yehudah, the Republican candidate.
In 2003 Obama was nominated chairman on the Illinois Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. He successfully sponsored legislation requiring police to record the race of motorists that they detained. This had unanimous bi-party support. Under Obama Illinois also implemented the mandatory use of video recording homicide interrogations, the first state to do so.
Obama resigned from the State Senate in 2004 upon successfully being elected to the US Senate.
Barack Obama And The US Senate
In January 2003 Obama announced that he would be running for the US Senate having commissioned a poll to assess his potential to win the previous year. David Axelrod was hired to be his election adviser. In March 2004, Obama won a landslide victory in the Democratic Primary. With 53% of the vote, he received more than twice the votes of his nearest Democratic challenger. This set him apart in Democratic Circles and he was highlighted as being one to watch.
His opponent in the general election was Republican Alan Keyes, who was chosen after Jack Ryan’s withdrawal. In the November 2004, general election Obama received 70% of the vote in a one-sided affair. With a 43% winning margin, this was the largest margin of victory in Illinois State history.
US Senate Voting Record
Obama voted in favour of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The act sought to diversify sources of energy in the US and provide alternatives to those which emit carbon emissions.
However, Obama also supported the Secure Fence Act of 2006 which has received some criticism. The act which was passed into law in October of that year provides provision for the construction of 1,100 km (700 miles) of fence along the Mexican border.
This has been criticised for many reasons. Chief among them is the financial cost of sometime that is not effective at preventing people from climbing over, crawling under or breaking through the fence. Some have commented on the irony of illegal immigrants being used to build the fences and the irony of a man who came into existence because of his Kenyan father, an immigrant.
Obama also sponsored safeguards in cases of military personal being discharged with personality disorders which was passed by the Senate. A bill criminalising deception in federal election was also put forward by Obama but this has yet to be signed into law.
US Presidental Campaign
On February 10, 2007, Obama declared his nomination for the US Presidential Election. This was to be the start of a remarkable election in which world-wide attention would be directed towards America. Obama was considered by many to be a long shot and started out in the shadow of Hilary Clinton.
His election focused on three key areas, ending the war in Iraq, overhauling America’s poor healthcare system and taking care of the underprivileged and marginalised in what became known as ‘spreading the wealth’.
Despite Obama’s seemingly long odds, the Democratic Primary nomination quickly became a duel between Clinton and himself. Clinton enjoyed an early sizeable lead. However, over time Obama gradually eroded her advantage and overtook her.
In a bitter drawn out campaign in which Obama was clearly winning, Clinton refused to surrender, polarising the Democratic electorate in the process. Finally, on July 7, with no alternative, Hilary Clinton endorsed Obama for President.
John McCain, a former Vietnam War Veteran and Senator, was Obama rival in the main election. Both candidates held similar right-wing economic policies matched with left-wing social concerns. However, despite the similar policies between the two there were several key differences.
Obama was the better organised and better funded of the two. He successfully leveraged the power of the Internet to an extent which had never been done before. His campaign managed to raise an estimated half a billion from online donations alone.
The younger, fitter, Obama was seen in stark contrast to 71-year-old McCain and concerns were raised over McCain’s age. McCain also faced the problem of being a member the same party which put one of the most unpopular presidents of all time, George W. Bush. This mere association with Bush meant that McCain would have an uphill task trying to win the election.
Finally, McCain’s nomination of an unknown Alaskan Governor as his vice-presidential nominee compounded matters. Sarah Palin had relatively very little experience in politics, very little understanding of foreign policy as a television interview revealed and was Governor of a state with a population of just over 600,000.
To make matters worse, while she polarised America, she was scorned by Europeans thus making it more difficult to repair already frayed international relationships. This contrasted sharply with Obama’s vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden, a seasoned political veteran.
All of these differences were to prove too great to overcome and Obama cruised to victory with almost 53% of the vote compared to McCain’s 45.7% on November 4, 2008.
Barack Obama And Productive Narcissism
Barack Obama has been classified by Michael Maccoby, an anthropologist and psychoanalyst, as a productive narcissist. One of the main characteristics that productive narcissists have is visionary leadership. Productive narcissists are often raised with either a weak or absent father figure. This absent father figure usually means that they create their own unique worldview.
Offering ways to inspire people, they usually come into political power when their is great upheaval and a need for desperate reform. One of the key differences that distance productive narcissists from other politicians is that they are willing to take risks to achieve their visions.
Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, as well as Obama, have all being deemed productive narcissists by Maccoby.
One of the things that Obama is most noted for is his debating and oratory skill. Described as one of the best speakers currently in politics, Obama’s ability to talk and connect with the audience was one of the reasons why he was elected president. He uses many of the same techniques that the Ancient Greeks used and as a result has been called the Cicero of our time.
The following examples of Greek rhetoric that Obama uses are courtesy of Charlotte Higgins of the Guardian. Anaphora and epistrophe are two simple but yet powerful techniques. Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence while epistrophe is repetition at the end of a sentence. ‘It is the answer told…It’s the answer spoken…It’s the answer...’ is an example of Obama’s use of anaphora while his most famous catch phrase ‘Yes we can.’ is often used at the end of the sentence as epistrophe.
Obama also uses the tricolon very effectively. That is saying things in threes. One of the most famous of which is ‘he came, he saw, he conquered’.
Finally, autonomasia is another ancient technique that Obama uses remarkably well. A specific form of metonymy, autonomasia substitutes a name with a phrase. Obama used it when he spoke of Martin Luther King being the ‘young preacher from Georgia’. This has the effect of creating intimacy between the speaker and the audience.
Obama’s rhetorical competence has being highly documented and his speech on race has been credited by some as being the single greatest speech of all time.
Check out Barack Obama Quotes: The President Speaks to see what the president thinks about war, welfare and Abraham Lincoln.
Obama has wrote a best-selling critically acclaimed book called Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance which he turned into the Grammy-Award winning audiobook. He has also written The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream in which he discusses his thoughts on restoring confidence in politics and the future of America. What is also interesting about this is that it was written when he was a Senator.
Renegade: The Making of a President , until Obama writes an autobiography, is the currently the best on offer. The author makes the most of being given unique access to Obama during his presidential campaign.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream and Further Reading