The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Balance marks Obama’s political career

    While a member of the Illinois Senate, Barack Obama was known for organizing basketball games and poker nights with other legislators—both Republicans and Democrats.

    It's this ability to reach across party lines that's made the difference in his work and his campaign, said Illinois Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Westmont). Although he's a Republican, Dillard has appeared in TV commercials for Obama.

    "I would not have done it just because he was my friend had we not worked together in a successful bipartisan way," Dillard said.

    Balancing party ties is just one of the many things the Democratic presidential hopeful has learned in his relatively short political career. He also strives to balance his family and his career, Dillard said. And balance, it seems, is something Obama has been working to achieve since his days as a student at Harvard Law School.

    Charles Ogletree, Harvard's Jesse Climenko professor of law and adviser to Obama's campaign, said Obama made time for fun and basketball as a student. Ogletree, who was a mentor to both the Democratic candidate and his wife, Michelle, while they attended Harvard, said Obama worked just as hard in the classroom as outside of it.

    Obama was an active member of Black Law Student Association and was named the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, Ogletree said.

    "He was considered a very mature student," Ogletree said. "He demonstrated a lot of confidence."

    The 46-year-old senator's rise to the presidential race has been fairly quick since he first took public office. Obama served in the Illinois Senate for eight years before being elected to the United States Senate in 2004.

    Martin Dupuis, associate professor of political science at Burnett Honors College in Orlando, Fla. and author of the book "Barack Obama: The New Face of American Politics," said Obama's magnetic personality is what pushed him into the national spotlight after joining the Senate.

    "You can tell he is very charismatic and passionate," Dupuis said. "He wants to work for ideals in ways we haven't seen since the Kennedys."

    Dillard, who worked with Obama to pass several major pieces of legislation, agreed with Dupuis' description of Obama's character.

    "He puts people at ease and gets along with all types and factions," Dillard said. "He's fun to be around and is someone you'd want at your dinner table."

    Obama's willingness to engage other legislators off the floor in the Illinois Senate made it easy for him to create compromises, Dillard said.

    Illinois Sen. Dave Syverson (R-Rockford), who chaired the Health and Human Services Committee while Obama was on it, said even though he and Obama had differing opinions, they were able to reach decisions on some major pieces of legislation regarding Illinois' KidCare health care coverage program and welfare reform.

    "One of the things I did respect (about Obama) was he did his homework," Syverson said. "He's smart enough to study the issues and more likely to read bills and research legislation. I may not have agreed with the way he voted, but I know he knew what he was talking about."

    Dillard said he found Obama easy to work with because he was practical when it came to finding solutions to problems.

    Both Dillard and Ogletree said while Obama is dedicated to his work in public service, his dedication to his family is just as strong.

    Dillard said Obama has a "wonderful relationship" with his wife and two daughters, and that he talks about his family often. Ogletree added that Obama's role as a father is one he takes seriously.

    "His girls won't know him as Senator or President Obama," Ogletree said. "They'll know him as Dad."

    Although Obama is currently a staple topic in the media, Dillard said he's stayed true to who he is.

    "Senator Obama has been covered so much that most of his life is like an open book," Dillard said. "He is how you see on TV. What you see is what you get."

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