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55 msafi ri

msafi ri 56 n December 2006, Barack Obama and his wife Michelle met with a handful of advisors to discuss whether he was going to vie for America's highest offi ce. A decision had to be reached quickly. The elections were less than two years away and as a relative newcomer to the US national scene, Obama had a lot of ground to make up to have a fi ghting chance of becoming the 44th president. Michelle Obama asked her husband: Why do you want to run? " This I know; when I raise my hand and take that oath of offi ce, I think the world will look at us differently. And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently." In February 2007, on a cold windy day in Springfi eld, Illinois, Obama launched his bid, pledging to " build a more hopeful America". This was a huge step for a man with a relatively thin resumé, having served only one Senate term and with little executive experience. Obama, arguably the greatest orator of his generation, skillfully turned it to his advantage. " I recognise that there is a certain presumptuousness in this, a certain audacity to this announcement," he said as he launched his bid. " I know that I have not spent a long time learning the ways of Washington, but I have been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington have to change." REVOLUTIONARY CAMPAIGN His fi rst real test was to win the Democratic Party ticket, and he did so convincingly to become the fi rst black candidate of a major political party. Obama's campaign scored a number of fi rsts. He raised more money than any other candidate in US history. He built an impressive campaign from the ground up, a truly grassroots campaign. He revolutionised the use of new age technologies such as the internet, and even became the fi rst candidate to run adverts inside video games – how über cool! Obama was determined to make his supporters the pillar of his campaign. " This is about you," he told his supporters time and again. " Yes We Can" became the rallying call of a generation, galvanizing a nation searching for a new identity. He sold himself as an agent for the change America desperately needed, urged the country to overcome political polarisation and long- standing divisions, and gave millions hope that the dream was within reach. Obama knew it would not be an easy victory. During one of his campaign's darker moments, he reminded his supporters that, " No change is simple. Change is hard." LONG TIME COMING The 2008 presidential campaign was the longest and most expensive in US history, a thrilling, hard fought race to the White House. In an exhilarating fi nish, the son of a Kenyan man and a white woman became the fi rst black president of the United States of America. It was an extraordinary triumph as Obama rode " a righteous wind" to defy history. During his victory speech to a roaring crowd in Grant Park in his hometown of Chicago, Obama celebrated the American dream. " If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible… tonight is your answer," he told an emotional and overjoyed crowd. " It has been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defi ning moment, change has come to America." On 20 January 2009, Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of offi ce to become the 44th president of the United States of America. His journey has come full circle, from a young man who struggled to fi nd his identity in a complex nation, to the president of a country desperate to craft a new destiny and image for itself. Obama's success is certainly a universal symbol of hope. Millions of kids around America will look at themselves differently, just as he hoped they would. But his triumph belongs not just to America. It also, rightly, belongs to the world. OBAMAMANIA Obama's exotic background and diverse heritage endeared him to a global audience early in the race. After eight years of disastrous foreign policies that had left America's moral stature in tatters, he offered a compelling opportunity for America to redeem itself , and his victory would be the reason many needed to begin to respect and admire America again. In Berlin, Germany, Obama drew a crowd of almost 200,000 people, confi rming that Obamamania really was a global phenomenon. As 4 November 2008 – election day – grew closer, the world held its breath. Would Americans elect Barack Obama? In the end, yes, they did! His victory sparked raucous celebrations around the globe. People of all races, religions and ages wept and laughed and whooped with joy over his victory. From the town of Obama in Japan, to the fi nancial capitals of Europe, to remote villages in Africa, his historic achievement heralded a new day, not just for America, but for the world. In Africa, where many feel a strong connection with Obama, and claim him as one of their own, one would have been forgiven for thinking that Obama had been elected the president of Africa. " I was happy to see Obama winning. He's young, fresh, good looking, and full of ideas. It's nice to fi nally see someone that the common man can identify with," says Blessing Obasohan, a 24- year- old accountant based in Lagos. Nana Awere Damoah, a Ghanaian writer, says Obama taught the world to " stop limiting ourselves to the box when we can go beyond the perimeters and reach the pinnacle." KENYAN SON But nowhere was this sense of pride greater than in Kenya, his father's homeland. Obama had been a local hero in Kenya since he became Barack to Michelle I THINK THE WORLD WILL LOOK AT US DIFFERENTLY. AND MILLIONS OF KIDS ACROSS THIS COUNTRY WILL LOOK AT THEMSELVES DIFFERENTLY Obama special