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What Makes Obama Run?

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Emit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-18-08 11:27 AM
Original message
What Makes Obama Run?
Here's an article from 1995, when Obama was running for the Illinois Senate. His dedication to breaking the mold and his underlying principles remain true today. The following article could have been written today. On Obama: "...I see nothing but integrity in this guy."


What Makes Obama Run?

Lawyer, teacher, philanthropist, and author Barack Obama doesn't need another career. But he's entering politics to get back to his true passion--community organization.

By Hank De Zutter
December 8, 1995

When Barack Obama returned to Chicago in 1991 after three brilliant years at Harvard Law School, he didn't like what he saw. The former community activist, then 30, had come fresh from a term as president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, a position he was the first African-American to hold. Now he was ready to continue his battle to organize Chicago's black neighborhoods....

~snip~

Today, after three years of law practice and civic activism, Obama has decided to dive into electoral politics. He is running for the Illinois Senate, he says, because he wants to help create jobs and a decent future for those embittered youth. But when he met with some veteran politicians to tell them of his plans, the only jobs he says they wanted to talk about were theirs and his. Obama got all sorts of advice. Some of it perplexed him; most of it annoyed him. One African-American elected official suggested that Obama change his name, which he'd inherited from his late Kenyan father. Another told him to put a picture of his light-bronze, boyish face on all his campaign materials, "so people don't see your name and think you're some big dark guy."

Obama, running to be the Democratic candidate for the 13th District on the south side, was also told--even by fellow progressives--that he might be too independent, that he should strike a few deals to assure his election. Another well-meaning adviser suggested never posing for photos with a glass in his hand--even if he wasn't drinking alcohol.

"Now all of this may be good political advice," Obama said, "but it's all so superficial. I am surprised at how many elected officials--even the good ones--spend so much time talking about the mechanics of politics and not matters of substance. They have this poker chip mentality, this overriding interest in retaining their seats or in moving their careers forward, and the business and game of politics, the political horse race, is all they talk about. Even those who are on the same page as me on the issues never seem to want to talk about them. Politics is regarded as little more than a career."



~snip~

"Anyone who knows me knows that I'm one of the most cynical people you want to see, always looking for somebody's angle or personal interest," Owens added. "I've lived in Chicago all my life. I've known some of the most ruthless and biggest bullshitters out there, but I see nothing but integrity in this guy."

Jean Rudd, executive director of the Woods Fund, is another person on guard against self-appointed, self-promoting community leaders. She admires not only Obama's intelligence but his honesty. "He is one of the most articulate people I have ever met, but he doesn't use his gift with language to promote himself. He uses it to clarify the difficult job before him and before all of us. He's not a promoter; from the very beginning, he always makes it clear what his difficulties are. His honesty is refreshing."

Woods was the first foundation to underwrite Obama's work with DCP. Now that he's on the Woods board, Rudd says, "He is among the most hard-nosed board members in wanting to see results. He wants to see our grants make change happen--not just pay salaries."

Another strong supporter of Obama's work--as an organizer, as a lawyer, and now as a candidate--is Madeline Talbott, lead organizer of the feisty ACORN community organization, a group that's a thorn in the side of most elected officials. "I can't repeat what most ACORN members think and say about politicians. But Barack has proven himself among our members. He is committed to organizing, to building a democracy. Above all else, he is a good listener, and we accept and respect him as a kindred spirit, a fellow organizer."

~snip~
http://www.chicagoreader.com/features/stories/archive/b...
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grantcart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Apr-18-08 11:55 AM
Response to Original message
1. Great story. Here is a suggestion - everybody that has an article on Obama's early days
add it to this thread so we have a single thread with all of these gems.


http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070416/moberg

http://www.chicagomag.com/Chicago-Magazine/January-1993...
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