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African American Democrat Joins U.S. Senate


A man analysts call a rising leader in the Democratic Party has easily won his race for the U.S. Senate in the Midwestern state of Illinois. Barack Obama's story is a closely watched one, because he is African American. And as VOA's Julie Carpenter tells us, he will be the only black person serving in the Senate in the next session.

Mr. Obama, an Illinois state senator, is the son of a Kenyan father and white American mother. He was raised in Hawaii and Indonesia. Senator-elect Obama graduated from Harvard Law School, where he was elected the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He emerged as one of his party's brightest stars speaking at last summer's Democratic Party Convention.

“My parents shared not only an improbable love, but also an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name - Barack - or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America, your name is no barrier to success. They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich. Because in a generous America, you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential.”

In his acceptance speech in Chicago Tuesday night, Barack Obama spoke about the obstacles of prejudice he overcame in his senatorial campaign.

"There was no possibility that someone who looked like me could ever aspire to the United States Senate. They felt that, in a fearful nation, someone named Barack Obama could never hope to win an election. And yet, here we stand because we had a different concept, a different notion of the American people. We understood that there was a core decency to the American people. That there was a set of shared values that that extended beyond race and reason; that extended beyond race and ethnicity."

Supporters say Mr. Obama is capable of transcending racial boundaries while preserving strong roots in black Chicago, where he lives.

"We are brothers and sisters. We have mutual obligations toward each other. Those mutual obligations express themselves not only in our family, not only in our work places not only in our places of worships, but also through our government. We believed in the possibility of a government that was just as decent as the American people are."

Senator-elect Obama also is being talked about as a leader to watch for future national political races.

"That's what America understands: that we don't just inherit the world from our parents, but we also borrow it from our children. And that is why tonight, as we stand here, we have to understand that we have another journey ahead."

The 43-year-old Mr. Obama will become the fifth African American senator ever to serve and only the third in the past 100 years.
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