Barack H. Obama (1961- )


Figure 1.--This photo was taken in 1972 at Punahou School. It shows the class attended by the President Obama at the age of 11. Senator Obama wrote a very early menoir. In it he decribes how he struggled to reconcile "social perceptions" of his multiracial heritage. He admitted using alcohol, marijuana and cocaine during his teenage years. Hawaii is a multiple race society, but blacks are a mall part of the racial make-up of the islands. Barak was only one of three black students at the school. He later wrote that it was here thast he first became conscious of racism and what it meant to be an African–American.


Middle Name

A reader writes, "I don't know why you call him Barack H. Obama. We all know that his middle name is Hussain, nobody uses that name, only people who are against him." About his middle name. The convention is dealing with presidents is to use the middle initials. Since the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, using the middle initial has been a very common way of writing about our modern presidents. This is not always the case. President Reagan and President Clinton's middle initiasl were not commonly used. But it was very common with 20th century presidents. I did not want to use his full name because as you say, it is commonly used by people who want to criticise him. I did not, however, want to avoid the topic.

Parents

Barack's father, Barack Obama, Sr. was from Kenya. He was from the Luo tribe in Nyanza Province, Kenya. As a boy in Kenya herding goats for his father. His father was a domestic servant to a British family. Barak Sr. came from Muslim, but at an early point in his life rejected UIslam and became an atheist. Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was raised in Wichita, Kansas. Her father was an oil worker and thus was employed during the Depression. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and American entry in World war II, he volunteered for military service. He was involved in the European campsign, serving in Patton's 3rd Army. Her mother like many American women supported the War effort by getting a job in the defense industry. She was aind of Rody the Rivitor and worked on a bomber assembly line. After the war, his father benefited from the G.I. Bill, bought a house through the Federal Housing Program, and moved to Hawaii. Barack’s father won a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya and pursue his education in Hawaii at the East–West Center of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. It was here Barak Obama Jr.'s parents met. The two separated when young Barak was 2 years old and subsequently divorced. Barak Obama Sr. went to Harvard to pursue Ph. D. studies and then returned to Kenya. He essentially deserted the family and showed no subsequent interest in his boy or attempted to provide child support. Barak's mother married Lolo Soetoro, a East–West Center student from Indonesia. The Soetoro family moved to Jakarta (1967). Barak's half-sister Maya Soetoro–Ng was born there. A reader writes, "I find it remarkable that his mother's second husband, the Indonesian Lolo Soetoro, used the Dutch spelling of his last name. Many Indonesians did not change the u-sound in their name, even Sukarno always signed his name Soekarno. Suharto did the same: Soeharto." His mother was from Kansas. He was raised with help from his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was a world War II veteran. (He served in Patton's 3rd Army. His grandmother began as a secretary in bank. She managed to work her way into middle management.

Childhood

Barack was born in Hawaii (August 4, 1961). As a boy, Barak was commonly called Barry. His mother married an Indonesian and the family lived for a timne in Jasrkarta. After 4 years bought the family back to Hawaii (1971). They lived with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham. His mother died of ovarian cancer (1995). He saw his father only once after he abandoned the family. They met in 1971 when Barak ws 10 years old. Barak senior was killed in aar accident (1982). Senator Obama wrote a very early menoir. In it he decribes how he struggled to reconcile "social perceptions" of his multiracial heritage. He admitted using alcohol, marijuana and cocaine during his teenage years. Hawaii is a multiple race society, but blacks are a mall part of the racial make-up of the islands. He was only one of three black students at the school. Obama was later to write that it was here thast he first became conscious of racism and what it meant to be an African–American.

Education

Barry first attended schools in Jakarta, where classes were taught in the Indonesian language. When his mother brought bhim back to Hawaii, he was enrolled in the 5th grade at the esteemed Punahou Academy. He was an excellent student and graduating with honors in 1979. After high school, Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles for 2 years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York, graduating with a degree in political science (1983). Barack worked his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans. We do not know yet what kinds of jobs he had to pay his way through college.

Social Work

As a college graduaste. His first inclination was to pursue social work. He moved to Chicago. He worked with a group of churches to help rebuild urban communities feeling the impact of industrial closures, especially steel mills. local steel plants. This is well publicized an even mentioned on his White House page. Less commonly addressed was the results of his social work in improving the lives of the industrial workers facing the problems of a declining industrial economy.

Law School

After his social work in Chicago, Obama decided that he needed a law degree. He was accepted by one of the most prestigious law schools in the country--Haervard Law School. He became the president of the Haevard Law Review, a impressive achievement. He was the first African American to achieve this honor.

Back to Chicago

Obama after earning his law degree, he returned to Chicago. There he engaged in a variety if community orgnizing activities. He led a voter registration drive. He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He became an active figure in his community.

Politics

Obama decided to enter politics. His White House web site states, "President Obama's years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose." He won election to the Illinois State Senate. There he explains that his major achievements were to help pass the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. He next won election to the United States Senate. There he sites his major achievements were to reach "across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world's most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online."

Family

Barack and Michelle Obama the parents of two daughters, Malia and Sasha. At the time the Obamas entered the White House, they were 10 and 7 years old.

Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama's parents are Fraser and Marian Robinson. Her father was a pump operator for the Chicago Water Department. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at a youth. He rarely missed a day of work. Michelle's mother was a home masker. Michelle was born in Chicasgo (1964). She has an older brother, Craig. Both were raised in a loving home. Michelle attended Chicago public schools and then studied sociology and African-American studies at Princeton University. She grduating from Harvard Law School (1988). She joined the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, where she would meet a young Barak Obama. They were married by Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (1992). After working with the law firm, Mrs. Obama decided she was more interested in public service and community organising. She worked as assistant commissioner of planning and development in Chicago's City Hall before becoming the founding executive director of the Chicago chapter of Public Allies, an AmeriCorps program that prepares youth for public service. Mrs. Obama was appointed by the University of Chicago as Associate Dean of Student Services (1996). She had a vision of bringing campus and community together. She developed the university's first community service program. As Vice President of Community and External Affairs for the University of Chicago Medical Center, there was an upsurge of volunteers. As First Lady, Mrs Obana as continued her interest in promoting volunteerism. She has launched the Let’s Move! campaign to address the serious probklem of childhood obesity. She has also expresed an interest in military families. Mrs. Obama after the 2010 campaign attracted some press attention when she stated that for “the first time” in her adult life,” she was proud of America, as she spoke during a campsign rally (February 18, 2008). That seems a strange statement about a country that defeated the Soviet Union, wernt to the mone, created the computer and internet, developed treatments for major diseases, accepted millions of immigrants from all over the world, and accomplisghed much more. The statement was not wuidely reported by the mainline media, but the Obama campasign subsequently reduced Mrs. Obama campasign profile. We also notice Mrs. Obamna saying, "Barack knows that we are going to have to make sacrifices; we are going to have to change our conversation; we're going to have to change our traditions, our history; we're going to have to move into a different place as a nation." (December 16, 2009) This also was not reported by the mnainstream media. This also seems a strange thing for an American First Lady to say. It sould like something that a Russian First Lady might say after the fall of the Soviet Union. Now no one denies that America can be improved, but does our traditions and history really need to be changed? After hearing words like this, one wonders if the First Lady like President Obama really sat in the pews of Rev. Wright's church all those years without hearing his hateful words or if she even objects to them.

Children

Barack and Michelle Obama the parents of two daughters, Malia and Sasha, both born in Chicago, At the time the Obamas entered the White House, they were 10 and 7 years old.

Presidential Election of 2008

It looked like the 2008 election would be a referendum on the Iraq War. Iraq dominated the primaries, but issues of economic equity and foreign trade were also became important. Senator Hilory Clinto, wife of the former president was the Democratic front runner, but Senator Barak Obama of Illinois who had been an early opponent of the Iraq War emerged as a leading candidate after his surprise victory in the Iowa campaign. As a result of a campaign which placed a substantial emphasis on the caucus states, he built up a lead in the delgte count that could be not overcome by Senator Clinton's victories in the large state primaries. Relevations of Senator Obama's association with anti-American views adversely affected his vote tally in several primaries. The increasing left-leaning national media either ignored theserelevations or dismissed them as unimportnt. The Democratic Convention in an historic action enthusiastically nominated Senator Obama, the first Afroo-American nominee of a major party. The Republican nomination was also hotly contested. Former New York Mayor Rudolf Juliani was aeading candidate. Massachusettes Governor Mick Romney and Senator McCain also vied for the nomination. Former Arkansas Govenor Mike Huckabee, largely unknown on the national level ran a surprisingly strong primary campaign. Finally Senator McCain emerged as the winner in the primaries and was nominated at the Convention. He chose another the largely unknown Govenor of Alaska, Sara Palin to run as his vice-presidential campaign. Against all expectations, the success of President Bush's surge iniitiative removed the Iraq War as the dominate issue. Rissing oil prices became a major issue, but the dominante issue of the campaign emerged in September when the stock market began a protracted punge and serious financial problems began to develop. Had this not occurred, the election would have been very close. Frightened by the financial collapse, the voters turned to the attractive Illinois senator.

Presidency (2009-11)

President Obama's rise to the presidency is virtually unparaled in American history. After only 2 years in the Senate, the junior senator from Illinois was elected president in the midst of the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. And surely no president has entered the office amist such adjulation and high expectartions. Virtually the entire American and European media lauded his abilities. A CNN anchor said that the new president sent chills up his leg. The new president even received the Nobel Peace Prize before doing anything. And he was provided Democratic majorities in both houses that gave him the ability to enact his program without Republican support. Few American presidents have enjoyed such a position of control over the Federal Government. The President launched into efforts to stabilize the economy. Following on the Bush Administration's TARP Program, the President sined a massive stimulus bill and a program to save the automobile companies. There was also a major financial reform bill signed into law. Each of the measures were controversial and cumulstively criticism began to build. Generally the main-stream media supported the President. Interestingly, the effective opposition did not come from the traumitized Republican Party, but from a grass roots movement of citizens which came to be called the Tea Party. They were dispairged and dimissed by the media. Speaker Pelosi called them 'Astroturf'. While criticism began to build, othing generated public criticism like Obamacare. After the disaterous 2010 beyelection, the President inisted that he was working so hard in an emergency situation was so focused that he did not give enough time to selling his program. This idea that it is a communications problem is an explanation that we have heard from the president before. It is stunning given the effort and number of appeaances that the Preident made trying to sell Obamacare. A case for that could be made for the beginning of the administration and early actions, but certainly not Obamacare. There was not great emergency forcing action on healthcare. What existed was Congressional majorities that gave the President the ability to pass a bill without Republican support. The result was a public outcry that forced Democrats all over the country to cancel town hall meetings. Faced with rising opposition, the President pressed on signing the bill into law. This more than anything infuriated the electorate and resulted in one of the most massive electoral rebukes in American history. The reaction of the Presidentand and other Democratic leaders is telling.

2010 Congressional By-election

The 2010 election ocuurred in a time of economic uncertainty and unemployment near 10 percent. Strangely the Democrats who under President Obama enacted several pieces of lndmark legislation (stimulus, Onamacare, and financial reform) did not run on their record. In fact many Democratic candidates ran away from the President and his achievemnents or even stressed their distance from him. We do not know a Congressional by-election in American history when a party's Congressional candidates tried so hard to distance themselves from their president. This was not even the case oh the Hoover (1930) and Nixon (1974) by-elections. Such a development is almost incomprehensible given the hoopla associated with President Obama's election and his broad coat tails which brought many new Democratic congressmen and senators to Washington. Rather than running on the President;s achievements, most Democratic candidates chose to localize the campaign, running personal campaigns against their opponents. Another major Democratic fosted by the President were charges of large amounts of business and unsubstantiated rumors of foreign money being used by the Republicans, even though the Democrats outspent the Republicans. The economy was not the only majpor issue in the elections. The other major factor was the emergency of thge Tea Party. This is probably the most authentic ground roots political movement in American political history. The main-stream media which often congratulates itself on political punditrty completely missed the importance of the Tea Party, dismissing them as Tea Baggers and racists. Speaker Polozzi insisted the movement was political stroturf--meaning not a real political movement. The Tea Party emerged as a diverse movement, but as it developed there were three core beliefs: belief in 1) the Constitution, 2) free-market capitalism, and 3) limited goverment--stressing the need to reduce the role, size, and cost of government. And a decesion of emense importance was that the Tea Party decided to work within the Republican Party rather than form a third party movement. The results of the 2010 election were a staggering rebuke to President Obama and the Democrats, perhaps the most staggering such rebuke in American political history. That rebuke was felt at all levels of Government. The publican gain in the Senate was only slightly above mid-term elections--6 seats. All six were carved out of middle-America, especially the industrial mid-West. The House results was a very different matter. The final count is not yet determined, but seems to about 60 seats. This is a magnitude off the charts in American election history. The only comparable by-election was in 1946 when the Republicans won 54 House sears and 11 Senate seats. The Republicans also achieved huge gains in the state racers for govenors and legislatures. President Obama in his press conference following the election (November 3) continued go insist that the results were due to economic factors. This is surely partly true, but he continues to believe that desire to limit government was not an important factor. The reason is of course idelogical. His left-wing policies can be excused for not having enough time to work, But limiting government strikes at the hear of the big-government solutions he champions. While stunning, there is one quesrtuin left unanswered. What will the results be in 2012 when the President heads the ticket for his reelection. Thus while broadly based, we do not yet know how permanent the Republican gains will be. President Obama believes that the voter's reacted out of fear and misleading information perveied by the Republicans, business, the Tea Party, and Fox News. He now has 2 years to reconnect with the American voters and convince them his policies were the correct ones. There is no indication that that he is prepared to change his policies. There are, however, 10 Democratic senators in states that went Republican that face reelection in 2012. They will be a powerful force in shaping the Democratic agenda.

Free Enterprise Capitalism

Any reasoned assessment of American history recognizes that free enterprise capitalism turned America into the most powerful and successful country in the world. And key to capitalism as Adam Smith explained more than 200 years ago was profit. The key to Karl Marx's criticism of capitalism was the labor theory of value. Marx believed that all legitimate value was added by labor and that profits were essentially capitalist exploitation of labor. As a result, many modern socialists or even liberals in the American context or somewhat uncomportable with profits. Commonly when American corporations report large profits, they are criticised in left-wing circles. President Obama on numerous occassiins has followed this line of thought. Soon after he took office in the middle of the economic crisis he suggested that companies should deemphazize profits. He said, "There will be a time for profits." Now that probably is an acceptable sentiment to most Americans, ibut t cuts at the heart of the ecomomic crisis. Incredibly what President Obama like many liberal Democrats do not understand is that it is profits that generate jobs. Companies reporting profits grow and expand and create jobs. Companies that do not achieve profits, dismiss or lay off woerkers. The President was saying in essence when he said that there will be a time for jobs. He seems totally unaware as to how his policies are affecting job creation in America. He insists that from the beginning he was intent on jobs, but as the electorate showed in the 2010 Congressional by-elections, this is not how Americans saw it. And this misconception over profits continues. During the FOX News Bill O'Riley Supper Bowl interview (February 7, 2011), the President complained about "greater profits and bonuses for those at the top". The inference is that corporate profits flow to only the people at the top. The link between profits and job creation still eludes the President as apparently does the impact of profits on the IRA accounts, other retirement accounts, and pensions of American working people.

Protecting Americans

A political commentator wrote, "Last year Obama made a statement during a 9/11 event in which he said "... as Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam.” Maybe the president needs to remind Islam about this because they certainly don’t seem to know. It is worth noting the number of terror attacks during the Obama presidency in which he has tried to pursue a soft policy toward Islamists nd withdraw American power fom abroad which the President seems tgo blieve is respoinsible for the rise of Islamic rerrorism. The President and the mainstream media tries to catgorize these atacks as work place violence or random acts of violence, anything to convince americans that they are not Islamic terrorism. ThePreident even refuses to use the term. It is useful to compile a list of these attacks since the President's inaguration (January 2009) and in particular compare them to the terror attacks during the Bush presidency which President Obama inists is the root of Islamic terrorism. And only a few weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing brags that since he took office, “there have been no large-scale attacks on the United States” (May 23, 2013). He also assure us that 99.9 percent of Muslims reject terrorism.






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Created: 9:08 PM 6/21/2009
Last changed: 7:19 PM 12/3/2015