Last Updated 30 Mar 2023

Barack Obama: The First African-American President of the United States

Category Barack Obama
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Barack Obama, made history when he became the first African-American President of the most powerful country in the world at the young age of 47. He overcame powerful competition from extremely popular political heavyweights of the likes of Hillary Clinton and John McCain and enumerable obstacles to win convincingly. A brief background : Obama was born as Barack Hussein Obama on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii to Barack Obama, Sr. , a Kenyan and Ann Dunham, a native of Chicago. They were both students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

However, by the time he became two years old, they had separated and later divorced. His mother got married to a fellow student, Lolo Soetoro. As Seatoro was from Indonesia, the family shifted to Jakarta later. After four years of schooling in Indonesian schools, Obama returned to live with his maternal grand parents in Hawaii and joined Punahou Academy from which he graduated with honors in 1979. His first experience with racism happened in this period because he was one of just three African American students. Obama completed his degree in political science from Columbia University in New York, 1983.

After gaining a few years of work experience he moved to Chicago in 1985 where he worked as a community organizer. (A&E Television Networks, 2008, p. 1) Opting for a career in law, he joined Harvard Law School in 1988. There he created history by becoming the first African American to be elected as the editor of Harvard Law Review. With the law degree in hand, Obama returned to Chicago and worked in a law firm while teaching at the Chicago Law school simultaneously. Meanwhile in 1992, Obama married Michelle Robinson, also a law graduate. 1992 was an important year in Obama’s career as a politician also.

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He was an active member in Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign organizing a hugely successful voter registration drive. He wrote an autobiographical book called “Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” in 1995. (p. 2) Obama was instrumental in drafting several legislation in ethics, income-tax credit for the poor, health care, education and law enforcement in this period. In 1996, People of Hyde Park elected Obama into the Illinois State Senate. He was also elected the chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee. Post 9/11, Obama was noted as one of the first prominent opponent of President George W.Bush’s strategy to go to war with Iraq. He warned about the costs involved in such a war in terms of lives, hardships and impact on economy.

His predictions came true as it turned out to be a very messy affair in the end. In 2004, Obama got in the fray for the U. S. Senate seat held by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. Voters soon took a liking to Obama and he was able to defeat the multimillionaire businessman Blair Hull and Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes. Obama entered the national politics when he gave a stunning performance as the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.

In the general election, Obama defeated the republican candidate Alan Keyes, who was also an African-American, in a record landslide victory in Illinois. Obama was very active as a senator with several successful campaigns on wide variety of matters such as transparency on federal spending, elimination of weapons of mass destructions in Europe and Russia, threat of avian flu, rehabilitation of Hurrican Katrina victims, alternative energy initiatives and so on. (p. 3) Obama published his second book, “ The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream” in 2006.

In February 2007, he decided to run for American Presidency and became the democratic nominee against a tough competition from the former first lady Hillary Clinton. After running a very systematic and well- organized campaign lasting more than 2 years, Obama became 44th president of the United States by beating republican presidential nominee John McCain. Obama is blessed with two daughters, Malia and Sasha. Obstacles Obama had to face in his run upto the presidency : His African American origin- The biggest obstacle in his path to presidency was that people of his origin has always found it difficult to get ahead in national politics.

Obama was only the fifth African American Senator in U. S. history and just the third to have been popularly elected. His seemingly apparent lack of experience as a leader or executive. The opponents and the media alleged that Obama was not experienced enough to lead the country. But he was successful in establishing that his years of experience as community organizer is as valuable as any other leadership stint. When Obama announced his campaign in February 2007, it seemed that Sen.

Hillary Clinton was the favorite for the Democratic nomination and was touted as the most anticipated presidential candidate in a generation. But in a systematic manner Obama went about his campaign and step by step his charisma took his popularity ahead and in front of the competition. White Voters, the overwhelming influence on the outcome of the US presidential elections, were not expected to support Obama as several studies and history suggested. Even among the African American community, Obama had trouble with his perceived strongest base.

It was only after his victory in Iowa that the black sentiment turned in his favour. There was also Obama’s perceived lack a shared background with the minority population that suffered centuries of social abuse. Obama also had to carefully handle the allegation on his backgrounds, past life, friends or any glitch on his biography that the opposition could use against him. (Sheng, 2008) Exit polls reported from several areas pointed to the fact that one in five white voters would prefer to vote for a white candidate, which meant that Obama’s opponent would get these votes no matter what other considerations were.

Obama also had to handle the seemingly ludicrous but highly influencing allegations on his muslim background. A Pew Research Center survey found that 13 percent of registered voters stated that Sen. Obama was a Muslim, which was proof that ignorance of voters could be a big factor that Obama had to deal with. 10. Obama also had to deal with a concerted effort to paint Obama as an outsider that did not belong in the US scheme of things. His mixed family background and alleged muslim connections added to these campaigns. (Bryjak, 2008) Obama’s Leadership Qualities

Barack Obama’s leadership qualities that leaves the people around him to emulate are the qualities that every efficient leader should posses. Intelligence, Good Communition Skills, a wide range of experience, a multicultural background, and an affinity for change. Intelligence -. Obama has shown tremendous intelligence difficulties to find logical solutions to tough problems. His views and thoughts of multiple ways to improve the American life shows his application of intelligence. Good communication skills - Obama has been successful in expressing his feelings in their entirety to his audience.

His speeches are highly affective and he takes the crowd in his hands. He also used the emerging media such as social networking sites on the internet to fundraise and communicate messages. Experience - 7 years of work in Illinois Senate and his work as a community organizer gives Obama the professional experience to fight through the problems. And his multicultural faceted and varied experience on a personal level gives him the edge over others. Change – Obama has already taken several key decisions with far reaching consequences to affect the change that he has promised so much and so far.

( Fu, 2008) As Madore in his article puts it “Obama’s ideas are fresh with relevant information. He supplies us competent Organization, with well-executed plans. His Word Choice is measured, precise and powerful. His Voice is honest, inspiring, and credible. His Fluency rings rhythmic and fine-tuned. And finally, his Conventions are clean and polished, showing evidence of following the rules” (Madore, 2008) A study conducted by NextNationalCEO. com. reports that Insightful judgment, vision and trustworthiness top the list of important leadership characteristics for the U. S. presidential candidates.

Obama is ambitious, strong, bold and determined to achieve his goals. He uses the resources available to him and innovates new ways to do things. For example, the way he used the social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace to raise funds and to build a strong influence among the youth. Obama promises a fresh look at everything without pre-conceived notions. His consensus building approach is likely to win friends off enemies. Obama believes in leading by example which was showcased when his stand that high salary levels need to be checked and revised was immediately put into action among the white house staff.

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