Barack Obama was raised by a single mother and his grandparents. They didn't have much money, but they taught him values from the Kansas heartland where they grew up. He took out loans to put himself through school. After college, he worked for Christian churches in Chicago, helping communities devastated when steel plants closed. Obama turned down lucrative job oﬀers after law school to return to Chicago, leading a successful voter registration drive. He joined a small law ﬁrm, taught constitutional law and, guided by his Christian faith, stayed active in his community. He went on to earn his law degree from Harvard in 1991, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Soon after, he returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer and teach constitutional law. Finally, his advocacy work led him to run for the Illinois State Senate, where he served for eight years. In 2004, he became the third African American since Reconstruction to be elected to the U.S. Senate. On November 4th, Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America. Obama and his wife Michelle are proud parents of two daughters, Sasha and Malia.
- November 5, 2008 The Times comments
What are his policies?
- The economy:
By common agreement, his most pressing challenge. Mr Obama inherits an annual $455 billion budget deficit. And yet he has promised to boost spending on education and health care while cutting taxes for 95 per cent of Americans.
Under the Obama plan, which he says he will finance partly by savings in Iraq, no family making less than $250,000 will see their taxes increase. Mr Obama wants to reverse most of the Bush tax cuts for America's wealthiest families.
In business, he promises a more level playing field, cutting loopholes and tax deductions, such as those for the oil and gas industries. He has attacked the greed and excessive pay on Wall Street. Mr Obama pledges to reform bankruptcy laws and ban executive bonuses for bankrupt companies.
The Obama economic rescue plan would provide $50 billion to "jumpstart" the economy and prevent a million Americans losing their jobs. The package would include a $25 billion "state growth fund" to prevent states cutting services or increasing property taxes. A "jobs and growth fund" will invest $25 billion into US infrastructure, including road and bridge maintenance, and school repairs. On housing, Mr Obama says he will crack down on fraudulent brokers and lenders. He says he will also make sure homebuyers have honest and complete information about their mortgage options, and they will give a tax credit to all middle-class home owners.
- Foreign policy.
In a speech in July, Mr Obama outlined five main foreign policy goals: to end the war in Iraq responsibly, to finish the battle against al Qaeda and the Taliban, to stop nuclear weapons and materials getting into the hands of terrorists and rogue states, to make secure America's energy supplies and to rebuild the country's strained alliances. And less war war, more jaw jaw.
To quote from the official Obama website: "The United States is trapped by the Bush-Cheney approach to diplomacy that refuses to talk to leaders we don't like. Not talking doesn't make us look tough – it makes us look arrogant, it denies us opportunities to make progress, and it makes it harder for America to rally international support for our leadership. Obama is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe."
Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
Obama says the Iraq war was a mistake from the start. He wants immediate cutbacks to America's 130,000-strong force, pulling out most of them within 18 months of his taking office.
He is more worried about Afghanistan, which he has called the "central front" in the war on terrorism. He has said he would be willing to launch attacks on enemy forces in Pakistan with or without that country's blessing. Critics crowed over the apparent naivety of his pledge to pursue open talks with the Iranian government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But his efforts to curtail its nuclear programme and encourage its economic modernisation might not look so far-fetched if a more moderate Iranian president takes over next summer.
Healthcare is one of the key issues for Mr Obama. He supports universal health care. It is wrong, he says, that 47 million Americans have no health insurance. He wants to use tax credits to encourage more businesses to insure their staff as well as set up a separate new healthcare system that will cost more than $1 trillion.
- The environment and energy.
Committed, he says, to addressing climate change, Mr Obama wants to cut carbon emissions by reducing America's dependence on oil and other fossil fuels. He proposes to cut America's vast oil consumption by at least 35 per cent, or 10 million barrels per day, by 2030.
He supports innovation - creating five million new "green" jobs - and finding alternative energy sources, such as hybrid cars and "clean coal". He opposes a greater reliance on nuclear power and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. That innovation will require investment. Condemning the current regime as one of the most anti-science administrations in US history, Mr Obama supports doubling federal funding for basic research.
- Trade protection.
Free trade supporters are worried that Mr Obama may usher in a new era of protectionism. He has criticised the North American Free Trade Agreement (with Canada and Mexico) for not helping American workers and wants to amend it.
Mr Obama also wants to end tax breaks for US companies that "send jobs overseas" and fight to ensure public contracts go to bidders who will provide work to Americans.
Obama says he does not believe that America's 12 million illegal immigrants can be deported and instead suggests they be given a "pathway to citizenship". He supports a guest worker programme and backs granting driver's licences to illegal immigrants. But he did vote in favour of building a 700 mile fence along the Mexican border.