Obama — A hard-nosed leader with charismatic speaking skills

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Washington, Nov 7: Barack Obama, who won a second term to the White House today against all odds, is a hard-nosed leader with an even-keel temperament, charismatic speaking skills and a knack for consensus-building.

51-year-old Obama, who defied a stiff challenge from Mitt Romney to win a presidential term again, faces thorny four years ahead amid concerns over sluggish economy while his foreign policy may continue to focus on Asia-Pacific where India is being seen as a linchpin in the US strategy.

Barack Obama

A votary of strong ties with India, domestic compulsions forced him to raise his voice against outsourcing jobs to India during his election campaign. Obama, the first ever US President to travel to India in his first term, has endorsed New Delhi for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council.

Notwithstanding strong dissatisfaction with his handling of the struggling economy, voters still remained loyal to him.

Obama recently toured the New Jersey coastline ravaged by megastorm Sandy along with its Republican Governor, with the two leaders praising each other for their response to the disaster in a rare bipartisanship.

He earned praise from the public for his response to the disaster, which claimed over 90 lives and caused an estimated economic damage of up to USD 50 billion.

Born Barack Hussein Obama, Jr, to white-American Ann Dunham and Kenya-born Harvard-educated economist on Aug 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, he was elected the 44th President of the US on Nov 4, 2008 after he defeated then Republican candidate John McCain and was sworn in on Jan 20, 2009.

Obama had reached the White House exactly 45 years after the Black civil rights leader Martin Luther King challenged Americans to embrace his "dream" of equality. Seeking to bring in the "real change" in the US, Obama, who was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, would take the oath of office for his second term on Jan 21, 2013 as the Constitutionally-mandated Jan 20 inauguration date falls on a Sunday.

However, he faces a daunting task ahead, especially on the front of economy. The US economy has struggled a lot since Obama took office amid one of the worst economic recessions in decades, with a slow job growth and the unemployment rate remaining over 8 per cent.

Earlier, the Democratic Party suffered historic losses in the mid-term polls in Nov 2010, with the Republicans appearing more determined than ever to promote their conservative agenda and stymie the President's plans.

On the foreign policy front, however, Obama managed to earn crucial points by dispatching a team of commandos to kill al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad, bringing the US war in Iraq to a close and striking a new nuclear arms treaty with then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Married to Michelle and father of two daughters Sasha and Malia, Obama realised the importance of the US ties with India from the very first day of his presidency.

Even before he was sworn in as the US President in Jan 2009, Obama as president-elect had personally called the then Indian Ambassador Ronen Sen to extend his condolences over the Mumbai terrorist attack and vowed that the US would provide all help to bring its perpetrators to justice.

Obama showed the significance he attached to India-US relationship by hosting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his First State Dinner in Nov 2009.

A year later, he became the first US President to travel to India in his first term during which he not only declared India-US relationship as the most important relationship of the 21st century, but also endorsed India for the UN Security Council Permanent Membership, recognising the growing stature of the country at the world level.

Obama has appointed a record number of Indian-Americans to top positions in his Administration – including Raj Shah as USAID Administrator – and also personally lit the traditional 'diya' inside the White House to celebrate the Diwali.

It was during his first term that the India-US bilateral trade crossed the USD 100 billion mark. On the domestic front, the Democrats, since Obama took office, have overcome Republicans' opposition to pass an economic stimulus programme, overhaul the US healthcare system, lay down new rules for Wall Street and the banking industry, and rescue the US auto industry from collapse.

Obama along with other Democrats also overturned a two-decade-old law banning openly gay Americans from serving in the US military. Ahead of the Presidential poll, Obama did not lose his patience and worked to a game plane and strategy that ultimately led him to win.

Obama's first tryst with power came in 1996 when the low-paid community organiser on Chicago's south side was elected to the state Senate of Illinois. He made it to the federal Senate in 2004 after a landslide electoral victory.

While many had scoffed earlier at Obama's experience as a community organiser saying community work experience did not count in the making of a US President, analysts felt that it had helped the black American leader to reach out to individual voters during his campaign for his first presidential election.

Obama, whose first name Barack in Arabic means 'the blessed', in his first term, was hard pressed to fend off rumours that he was a Muslim and said he was a practising Christian.

Obama's biological parents had divorced after his birth and his father died in 1982 in an auto incident. During his childhood, Obama spent some time in Indonesia where his mother moved after marrying Stanley Dunham.

He was then raised by his grandfather, who served in Patton's army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to become Vice President at a local bank.

After completing his school, Obama moved to Chicago where he worked as an organiser to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.

Obama went to Harvard Law School, where he was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating, he came back again to Chicago, which he made his home town. He continued his legal work as a civil rights lawyer and professor teaching Constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

PTI

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