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Profile: Barack Obama
    2008-11-05 15:16:39     Xinhua

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama waves to supporters at the election night rally in Chicago, the United States, on Nov. 4, 2008, after he won the presidential election. [Photo: Xinhua]

Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, was elected the 44th president of the United States on Tuesday.

The 47-year-old senator from Illinois promises to bring "changes we believe in," which could begin with being the first African American president in history.


Obama's life tells a different story from previous presidential hopefuls. He was born on Aug. 14, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a Kenyan father and a white mother from the state of Kansas, in the U.S. heartland.

However, his father left home only two years after his birth for a graduate degree in Harvard and then a post in the Kenyan government. The only time Obama met his father again was at the age of 10. He was killed in an automobile accident in 1982.

Obama's mother married an Indonesian oil executive when Obama was six. The whole family then moved to the southeast Asian country. He eventually returned to Hawaii for high school and stayed with his grandparents.

As he says in his book, Dreams From My Father, being rooted in both black culture and white culture, has helped him gain expansive vision he could bring to politics later. After graduating from Columbia University in 1983, Obama was "possessed with a crazy idea -- that I would work at a grassroots level to bring about change."

He moved from New York to Chicago, Illinois, in 1985 and worked as a community organizer in a poor African-American area for three years, when he realized involvement at a higher level was needed to bring true improvement to such communities.

Obama then attended Harvard Law School and was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he returned to Chicago where he practiced civil rights law and taught the Constitution at the University of Chicago.


Obama decided to make his first run for public office in 1996, winning a seat in the Illinois state senate. Four years later, he sought a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, but without success.

In 2004, Obama beat six Democratic rivals to win the nomination in the congressional elections. His remarkable skills in oratory also impressed the party's presidential candidate, John Kerry, who named him the keynote speaker at the national convention, where Obama, for the first time, stepped on the national political stage.

That November, he overwhelmingly captured 70 percent of popular votes in the congressional elections to become a senator.

In the Senate, Obama's voting record coincided with those of the Democratic Party's liberal wing. He criticized the Iraq war from the beginning, worked on Congress ethical standards and increasing the use of renewable fuels. He also built his reputation as a new breed of politician by working without partisan and racial divides.


Obama announced his bid for the White House on Feb. 10, 2007, in Springfield, Illinois, where former President Abraham Lincoln had delivered a speech in 1858.

He joined seven other politicians in the Democratic camp, including former first lady and New York Senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton. In the first half of 2007, he raised 58 million U.S. dollars, setting the record for fundraising by a presidential campaign in the first six months of the calendar year before the elections, although he trailed Clinton in national polls in 2007.

However, Obama was highly successful in enlisting supporters, especially among youth, minorities and those with higher education, and mapped a strategy to campaign not only in primary states but also caucus states. In the first caucuses held in Iowa on Jan. 3, 2008, he scored a surprising victory.

After the Super Tuesday of Feb. 5, Obama tied Clinton. With victories in 10 more consecutive contests over the rest of February, he surpassed her to become the most likely nominee. Finally, on June 3, he clinched the presidential candidacy.

On Aug. 29, Obama and his running mate Joe Biden told the Democratic national convention that he would bring the changes the country needs and "revive the American dream."

He has promised that if elected, he will take the country in a new direction by withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq with responsibility, enacting universal and affordable healthcare and adopting tax policies favoring lower- and middle-income families.

During the national campaign, he led Republican rival John McCain not only in polling numbers but also in campaign funding.


Obama met his wife, Michelle Robinson, in June 1989 when he worked at a Chicago law firm. They married on Oct. 3, 1992, and have two daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha.



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