Sen. Barack Obama to speak tonight

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., will deliver the fourth annual Licht Lecture tonight at 9 p.m. in Salomon 101. Obama was elected Illinois’ junior senator in 2004 with 70 percent of the vote and delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. He is the third African-American to have been elected to the U.S. Senate.

Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961 to a white American woman and a black Kenyan student. He focuses on this aspect of his upbringing in a 1995 autobiography titled “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance,” which was re-released in 2004 and became a national bestseller.

Obama’s parents divorced when he was 2 years old, and his father returned to Africa. Aside from four years spent living in Jakarta, Obama was raised in Hawaii by his mother and grandparents. He studied for two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles and received a degree in political science from Columbia University in 1983.

Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991, where he was the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. He worked as a civil rights attorney and community organizer in Illinois, in addition to teaching at the University of Chicago Law School.

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate, where he served for seven years. As a state senator, Obama helped write Illinois’ Earned Income Tax Credit and authored a death penalty reform law. In 1999, he lost in the primary race for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives against four-term incumbent and former Black Panther Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill.

Obama currently sits on the Foreign Relations, Veterans’ Affairs and Environment and Public Works committees of the U.S. Senate.

In March 2005, Obama announced the Higher Education Opportunity through Pell Grant Expansion Act, his first proposed Senate bill, which would raise the maximum amount of Pell Grant awards for American college students.

This year, Obama has campaigned to reform immigration laws and repeal estate tax cuts. In July, Obama was among four congressmen to introduce S.2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act, which will create a Web site listing all organizations receiving federal funds from 2007 and later. President George W. Bush signed S.2590 into law on Sept. 26.

Though frequently mentioned as a potential 2008 presidential candidate – particularly because of his popularity within the national Democratic Party – Obama has denied such aspirations.

Obama will speak at Brown after a fundraiser for Rhode Island Democratic Senate candidate Sheldon Whitehouse. Obama is the featured guest at the event for Whitehouse, who will face incumbent Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee ’75 in November in one of the nation’s most hotly contested Senate races.

The Gov. Frank Licht ’38 Lecture Series is sponsored by the Taubman Center for Public Policy and was established in 2004 by a gift from the former Rhode Island governor’s wife, Dottie Licht. Intended to bring newsmakers and prominent public affairs speakers to the University, the lecture series has previously featured Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman, Washington Post national political correspondent David Broder and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

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