It was the year 2004. The Democratic Party was holding its national convention in Boston, Massachusetts. On July 27, the keynote address was to be delivered by a man named Barack Obama. This was his first initiation into national politics and he grabbed the chance with both hands. His speech that night was historic. It catapulted him to national recognition and paved the way for him to run for the US Senate and from there, to the US Presidency. He stressed that night that the country was not about the red states or the blue states but about the United States of America. This appealed to every American that night. Indeed, few would have thought that he would be President of the United States of America one day.
He remarked to a reporter covering the convention – “I’m LeBron, baby!” He was referring to LeBron James – the NBA star of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team who was shooting baskets on his way to stardom during that time. The reporter after listening to his speech that night had to admit that Obama was indeed the LeBron James of US politics.
Barack Hussein Obama never wanted to become a politician. However, his entry into politics came by chance. The first serious thought of entry into politics occurred to him when he was doing community organizing in Chicago early in his career. The one stumbling block in his mind about a full-fledged foray into politics was memories of his father. His father was a politician in Kenya who fared very badly in local Kenyan politics.
Obama’s stint in community organizing in Chicago taught him a great deal about serving the people. During his stint, he had the chance to interact with the deprived sections of Chicago society who later on became strong vote banks for him, first in his election as Illinois senator and later in his race for the US Senate. He had this ability to lift the mood of the people with great oratory.
Two persons played a very prominent role in shaping Obama’s political figure. The first was Dan Shomon, his first long term political adviser. It was Shomon who advised Obama that he should travel to the southern side of the state of Illinois in a bid to understand the state better, so that Obama, who harbored thoughts of running for a statewide office one day, would not be found wanting in this respect. Shomon and Obama had a very good working relationship. Obama had a superior air during the initial years of his political career and Shomon was particularly concerned that this would distract the working class voters whose vote was crucial. Shomon sought to improve Obama’s relationship with the working class which proved quite decisive in his election to the Illinois senate.
David Axelrod was the second person who polished Obama’s political image. Axelrod had this uncanny ability to spot national political talent and was soon right in his assessment of Obama as a potential national star in US politics. So when Obama split with Shomon, he turned to Axelrod to become his political adviser. Axelrod was very instrumental in polishing Obama’s speeches to the public. Having been educated at Harvard, Obama’s speeches had the Harvard baritone which the general public would find difficult to digest. Axelrod helped Obama in delivering oratory that would make him closer to the listening public. This was a giant leap in Obama’s career as he soon found that he could attract more crowds at rallies.
Obama decided to contest for the US presidential elections soon after return from his trip to his native Kenya in 2006 where he was accorded a hero’s welcome. The Kenyans were delirious at each place he visited, including his father’s grave in Nairobi. The trip to his home country was exhilarating for him. He sought the advice of all his close associates as to whether he should run for President in the 2008 election. He had the support and backing of all his aides and most importantly, his family – his wife Michelle and his two lovely daughters – Sasha and Malia.
Thus began a journey that spanned a tedious 21 months of rigorous campaigning and a bitter rivalry with a formidable lady named Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic Party nomination. Obama prevailed in a hard fought battle with Hillary and later on won comfortably against his presidential election rival – Senator John McCain. Hillary Clinton would later on become Secretary of State in Obama’s administration.
As the world battles the worst financial crisis in a century, there is a huge weight of expectations on his young shoulders. The world looks upon him to deliver. LeBron James could elevate his game to any position, whatever be the state of the game. His team-mates could rely on him as he always made the basket whenever the team needed it. The next four years of his life would determine whether Obama is really in the league of LeBron James. If the world becomes a better place to live in his tenure, then surely he can lay credentials to the fact that he is indeed LeBron James of politics.