The African Connection: This November, Barack Obama, Who Traces His Paternal Roots to Kenya, Will Stand for Election as a US Senator on the Democratic Party Ticket. A Win for Him Will Create History in a Number of Ways

By Vesely, Milan | African Business, October 2004 | Go to article overview

The African Connection: This November, Barack Obama, Who Traces His Paternal Roots to Kenya, Will Stand for Election as a US Senator on the Democratic Party Ticket. A Win for Him Will Create History in a Number of Ways


Vesely, Milan, African Business


He has been called the 'new face of American politics', 'a rising star in the Democratic Party' and an 'optimistic voice for minorities'; and he is all of that. He is also the son of a member of Kenya's Luo tribe and as such, Illinois State Senator Barack Obama is considered an ambassador for all the new immigrants from Africa that have made the US their home.

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Obama's story is a compelling one. His father was born on the shores of Lake Victoria and met Obama's mother while studying at the University of Hawaii. When Obama was two years old his father left the family and returned to Kenya to become a senior economist in the Ministry of Finance.

A product of a single parent home, Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York before receiving a law degree from the prestigious Harvard Law School. While there he became the first black president of the world-renowned Harvard Law Review, a prominent civil rights lawyer, and a senior instructor in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School before entering local politics.

If elected to a US national Senate seat for Illinois (he is currently a state Senator) in November's elections, he will be only the third black US national Senator in a century to have held such a prestigious office.

Obama came to national prominence as the July 27 keynote speaker at the Democratic Convention that selected John Kerry as the US presidential candidate for the November election. Shortly before that speech he undertook a major foreign policy address to the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. In that address, Obama outlined 10 foreign policy priorities that he would address if re-elected as a Senator from Illinois. "American leadership has been a mighty force for human progress," Obama told the distinguished Chicago gathering. "Unfortunately, I fear our once great influence is waning, a victim of misguided policies and impetuous actions. Never has the US possessed so much power, and never has the US had so little influence to lead."

Obama then turned his attention to specific world affairs. On Iraq he said that the US must "confront the challenge of returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people". Claiming that elections must be held in that country as soon as is possible, he stated that: "The Democratic Party would encourage international involvement in the Iraqi process by giving international partners a meaningful voice and role in Iraqi affairs.

"Other countries must have fair access to multibillion dollar reconstruction contracts being issued by the United States. In return, they must forgive the Saddam Hussein era's multimillion dollar debts and help pay for future Iraqi reconstruction costs."

Turning to the Bush administration's policy of using the US military as a forceful arm in its stated policy of bringing democracy to the Arab world, he had this to say. "Our armed forces cannot impose a democracy. The citizens of those countries must see the economic benefits of democracy in their daily lives or their support for democratic governance will rapidly erode."

He went on to say that "the US must support those brave men and women fighting for democracy in their own countries, whether it is in China, Saudi Arabia or elsewhere."

ELOQUENT AND STIRRING

Turning his attention to Africa, Obama talked about the scourge of HIV/Aids. "America must give its fair share to fight HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria to avoid both a humanitarian and economic crisis in Africa," he said. "President Bush's budget this year actually cuts the US contribution to the global fund by some 65%.

"As Senator, I will hold Bush to his word to fully fund our commitment to the worldwide war on HIV/Aids. We must also increase the availability of generic drugs to HIV/Aids victims around the world."

Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention was the highlight of the second day's festivities, not least because if he wins the national seat in November it will reverse a Republican Party win at the last election four years ago. …

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