Earlier this year an East African newspaper sent a reporter to the region of Siaya, in Kenya, near Lake Victoria, where the father of a forty-three-year-old Chicago Democrat named Barack Obama was born. News that the younger Obama was emerging as one of the brightest lights in American politics had only recently reached the area. "Most people," the paper reported, "were heard wondering aloud: Wuod Kogelo dwaro golo Bush e kom." That translates as "A son of Kogelo clan is challenging President George Bush for presidency in America." So far Obama is merely a Democratic candidate for the Senate. But the Kenyans can be forgiven their mistake. Since he won an upset victory in a seven-person primary in March, Democrats have sometimes seemed more excited about Obama's future than that of the candidate who actually is challenging Bush this year.
It's not hard to see why. Obama has an irresistibly American biography and the political skills to match it. His father grew up herding goats in Kenya, but in 1959 became the first African to enroll at the University of Hawaii, where he met Barack's future mother, a white Kansan who is a distant descendant of Jefferson Davis. Two years after Barack's birth his parents separated, and thereafter he was raised in a multiracial milieu in Hawaii and Indonesia by his white grandparents and mother and his Indonesian stepfather. Educated at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, he gained national attention as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. Eschewing the Supreme Court clerkships and corporate-law-firm jobs available to him, he instead toiled as a civil-rights lawyer in Chicago. In 1996 he won a state-senate seat representing part of the city's South Side, a place The Almanac of American Politics describes as "the nation's largest urban black community for nearly a century."