Barack Obama

By Hession, Gregory A. | The New American, May 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Barack Obama


Hession, Gregory A., The New American


Just four years ago, when Barack Obama was an obscure Illinois state senator running a long-shot campaign for the U.S. Senate, he quipped regarding his then-largely unfamiliar name, "Just call me Alabama." That same year he was invited to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention, and he gained valuable name recognition and glowed in the national limelight when he delivered that widely acclaimed speech. He then went on to capture a Senate seat. Today, everyone recognizes his name and knows how to pronounce it.

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In the late 1980s, Obama also glowed at Harvard Law School, where he became president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. That means that he occupied the most elite student position in the most elite legal education establishment in the world. That is like being the first violinist in the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, the best of the best.

Prior to Harvard, Obama worked for three years as a community organizer in Chicago in the mid-80s, where he strived for "change" in hopeless ghettos and bleak housing projects. However, change did not materialize as he had hoped, and he entered Harvard Law School in 1987. During his first summer, he obtained an internship at a large Chicago corporate law firm. It was there that he met his wife, Michelle, who had just completed her own law degree at Harvard and was a young associate at the same firm. As fate would have it, she was the one assigned to monitor his summer internship there. They were later married, and soon Barack Obama became restless to enter elective politics, launching his political career with his election to the Illinois state Senate in 1996. He is now not only running for president but has more pledged delegates than Hillary Clinton and appears much more likely than she to capture the Democratic nomination.

Obama has pulled ahead of Clinton, contrary to the political wisdom of just a few months ago, by effectively projecting himself as a reasonable populist who transcends race, religion, and ideology. But what exactly does that mean in the world of real politick? If his stance transcends the political divide, where does he stand?

Man of the Government

Most everyone looks at government in one of two ways: one group wants government to do something for them, while the other group seeks either to have government stop R. doing something to them or taking something from them. Obama came from political obscurity and wants to be the next president, so he can run the government. He is smart enough and well spoken enough to have convinced a majority of the first group--the ones who want government to help them--that he is the one to make it happen. The members of the second group, those who must pay for those sparkling promises, are not so enthused. However, both groups have a great curiosity about this man who would operate the levers of power. What does he believe? What are his core values?

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Fortunately, Obama has written two books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father, which give insight into his mind, soul, and politics. The information in these books is supplemented by a long stream of campaign speeches and position papers. The oft-repeated media line that Obama is a great orator but says nothing is inaccurate. Before and during his presidential bid, he has given us a reliable record of his beliefs and their historical development. Thus, we have clarity on his general political philosophy, as well as his positions on most of the significant issues in the current presidential race.

"My job is to inspire people to take ownership of this country," Obama said in Essence in March 2004. "Politics is not a business. It's a mission. It's about making people's lives better." Obama is a man of the government. By taking "ownership of this country," he does not mean limiting government to its constitutional size so that the people can take care of themselves and manage their own lives; he means instead empowering government to manage the economy and provide for the people, thereby (in his view) "making people's lives better. …

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