Barack Obama: Inspiring a New Generation of Americans

BY PATRICK

Presidential Preview: Your Picks for 2008

In the last month, a host of politicians have joined the presidential race for 2008. The Record asked students to explain which candidate they’re most excited about; in the coming weeks, we’ll be running columns in support of all the major candidates. Don’t see your favorite candidate represented? Email record@law.harvard.edu and make your opinion heard.

On February 10, from the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., HLS alumnus Senator Barack Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. Springfield, the cross roads of America, was an appropriate place for Obama to begin a campaign that brings the hope of uniting a divided nation. It is where both President Abraham Lincoln and Senator Obama spent their early political careers in the State legislature before spending two years in Congress, and then running for President. Also like Lincoln, Obama has a confidence, easy demeanor, and intellectual wit that allow him to work across party lines to provide common-sense solutions to America’s most pressing challenges.

John F. Kennedy inspired a nation with his words, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” Obama now calls our generation to take up that torch and face our own challenges: “Each and every time, a new generation has risen up and done what’s needed to be done. Today we are called once more – and it is time for our generation to answer that call … It is time to turn the page right here and right now.”

Obama’s message of hope resonates today for so many, young and old, who are tired of partisan fighting and inaction and yearn for a leader who will boldly address the many issues confronting America. We are a generation awaiting inspiration, and we have finally found a candidate that reminds us that common Americans can transform a nation.

The grandson of a WWII veteran, Barack Obama was born to a Kenyan father and a Kansan mother and raised in Jakarta from age 6 to 10 before returning to Hawaii. After graduating from Columbia University, he became a community organizer on Chicago’s Southside, where he saw first-hand government’s unkept promises. At age 27, Obama entered Harvard Law School and became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he turned down prestigious clerkship opportunities to work as a civil rights lawyer and Constitutional Law professor at the University of Chicago. In 1997, Obama became an Illinois state senator, where he served until being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, only the third African-American Senator since Reconstruction.

Obama’s rockstar presence sometimes overshadows his substantive successes as a legislator, but his capacity to get things done is well known in Illinois. As a state senator, he reached across the aisle to pass sweeping bipartisan ethics reform and provide health insurance for all children. He worked to reform the tax system for working families, curb racial profiling, reform a flawed death penalty system, and protect civil liberties.

As a U.S. Senator, Obama led the charge for congressional ethics reform and has called for universal healthcare by 2012. He co-sponsored immigration reform with Sen. McCain, worked with Republicans to dismantle nuclear weapons in the former U.S.S.R., and sponsored legislation to live up to America’s responsibilities in Africa.

Obama is the only leading presidential candidate that was insightful and courageous enough to oppose the Iraq War in 2002 while others authorized it. He has recently introduced a bill to prevent increasing troop levels and to remove combat forces from Iraq by March 2008.

His deep faith, intelligence, charisma, and political acumen remind us what leadership should be. His message reminds us that regardless of party, age, or economic status we are one America. Together we can win back the White House, not just for Democrats, but for all Americans.

Patrick Croke & Shahiedah Shabazz, 2Ls, are Board Members of HLS for Obama.

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