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Profile: Barack Obama
November 3, 2004
Widely seen as a rising star in US politics, Barack Obama is tipped by some to become the country's first black president.

The Illinois Democratic state senator's career has taken another step upwards easily winning a seat in the Senate in the November election.

He will be the only black member among 100 senators when Congress convenes in January and only the fifth African-American to serve there.

A passionate speaker, he wowed Democrats when he addressed the party's convention in Boston in July.

The son of a Kenyan man and a white woman from Kansas, Mr Obama made a speech strong on his personal history, a speech reflecting traditional American ideals of self-reliance and aspirations.

"Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place - America, which stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before," he said.

Grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia
Studied law at Harvard
Civil rights lawyer in Chicago
State senator for Illinois
Mr Obama, 42, is currently a state senator for Illinois, representing a district in south Chicago.

He was the favourite to win the Senate seat in 2004, held by Republican Peter Fitzgerald, who is retiring.

Mr Obama stunned Democratic opponents when he won his party's state nomination in March, facing six opponents and still winning 53% of the vote.

International upbringing

Supporters say he appeals to black and white voters alike. He is also said to have an ability to connect with white rural and small-town voters - a trait Mr Obama puts down to his family background.

Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at the Democratic convention in Boston, July 2004
Future president and first lady?
Mr Obama is named after his father who grew up in Kenya herding goats, but gained a scholarship to study in Hawaii.

There the Kenyan met and married Mr Obama's mother, originally from Kansas, who had moved to Honolulu with her parents.

When the junior Barack was a toddler, his father got a chance to study at Harvard but there was no money for the family to go with him. He later returned to Kenya alone, where he worked as a government economist, and the couple divorced.

When Mr Obama was six, his mother, Ann, married an Indonesian oil manager and the family moved to Jakarta. The boy lived there for four years, but then moved back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents and attend school.

Both his parents are now dead.

Law career

Mr Obama went on to study political science at Columbia University in New York, and then moved to Chicago where he spent three years as a community organiser.

In 1988 he left to attend Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.

After Harvard, Mr Obama returned to Chicago to practise civil rights law - rejecting the big corporate law firms to represent victims of housing and employment discrimination.

He is married to a lawyer, Michelle, and they have two young daughters.

Mr Obama still practises law, and also does some teaching at the University of Chicago Law School which he says keeps him sharp when it comes to issues like abortion, gay rights and affirmative action.

Mr Obama was an early critic of the Iraq war, speaking out against the prospect of war several months before the March 2003 invasion.

When he addressed Democrats in Boston, he praised the men and women serving in Iraq, and said more should be done to financially support the families of those killed.

"When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world," he said.

Fans of Mr Obama are already number-crunching. By 2012 he could have eight years in the Senate under his belt.

By 2016, he will be 54 - a good age for a president, some say.

Mr Obama often jokes that people are always getting his name wrong, calling him "Alabama" or "Yo Mama".

Supporters believe that one day, no-one will make that mistake.


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