Barack Obama is not a name that trips easily off of the Western tongue, and it's definitely not a name you would expect to hear in American politics. But after Tuesday night's keynote address before the Democratic National Convention in Boston, the previously obscure state senator from Illinois has been the talk of the convention — and just might wind up a regular part of the electoral lexicon.
Obama's ascent was rapid. After seven years as a state senator in Illinois, he has emerged as the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, beating out six other candidates in primaries earlier this year and, in the process, catching the eye of the DNC brass. Obama is now heavily favored to become only the fifth black senator in U.S. history, thanks to the withdrawal of his sex-scandal-strapped Republican opponent Jack Ryan and Mike Ditka's decision to stick to Levitra ads instead of Senate races.
Obama, just 42, has injected new energy into the Democratic Party in Illinois — and now, on a national level.
In his impassioned speech (see "Newcomer Obama Steals The Show At Day 2 Of Democratic Convention"), Obama offered his father's life story as an example of America's possibilities. Obama's father — also named Barack — was a member of Kenya's Luo tribe and a government economist in his native country. He met his wife, a white woman, when he was a student attending the University of Hawaii. Obama was born in Hawaii and when he was 2 years old, his father returned to Kenya, where he eventually served as a senior economist in the country's Ministry of Finance. Young Obama spent most of his life surrounded by his mother's family — "white folk," as he describes them. Upon entering Columbia University, he was immersed into the harsh racial realities of New York.
After graduating from Columbia, Obama attended Harvard Law School and became the first black editor of The Harvard Law Review. After receiving his law degree, he put down roots in Chicago's south side, where he taught law at the University of Chicago and later began his political career. He’s been campaigning relentlessly for the Senate, even in the absence of an equally matched opponent: The candidate even has an R&B-inflected campaign theme song, “Obama for Senate.”
In his address on Tuesday, Obama emphasized the need to help underprivileged communities, his hopes for racial and ethnic progress, and the importance of party and national unity. He also reminded delegates that despite our different backgrounds, Americans must focus on what can bring us together. "There is no conservative America and liberal America," he said. "There is the United States of America."
To read Obama's address in its entirety, click here.