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Perspective

Obama? Just like Jack?

By JIM VERHULST
Published October 29, 2006


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It's been a virtual Obama-rama in recent days - Barack Obama on talk shows, news shows, magazine covers. Everywhere, all the time. The charismatic Obama on some level seems to be all things to all people. And he has a new book out. So he can write, but will he run? Should he, could he? He won't say yet, though Oprah says he ought.

Every argument for has an argument against. He's too young, too inexperienced, he's barely been a U.S. senator, let alone shown presidential timber. Do we really want another president to learn on the job? Ah, comes the retort, you can't time timing. If not now - when, then?

Still, no man - particularly one whose Senate seniority is next to dead last - has been elected to the presidency directly from that august body since, well, Jack Kennedy, which is the name invoked near the top of every Obama story. Fair enough. Just for fun, let's do it, too. Decide for yourself if comparing the two is sensible or simply silly.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy

40 something: Youngest elected president, 43.

1961: Inaugurated Jan. 20. Learning to govern nation. Bay of Pigs fiasco is international incident.

Family : Ancestors left Ireland during potato famine of the 1840s. One of nine children.

Education: Harvard undergraduate.

Military :During World War II, he served famously aboard PT-109, saved crewmen after it was split by a Japanese destroyer.

Religion: Was a Roman Catholic. Had to persuade voters that pope wouldn't call the shots.

First: Roman Catholic elected president.

Senate: By the time elected president, had served a six-year term as senator from Massachusetts, was two years into second term.

Celebrity connections: Socialized with Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, among others.

Famous speeches: In his inaugural address, declared: "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."

Books: Wrote two books: While England Slept and Profiles in Courage, which won Pulitzer Prize.

Ancestral visits: Made two trips to Ireland: in 1947 as a congressman and in 1963 as president.

Chicago: Needed its votes to win presidency. Won Illinois by 8,858 votes. Opponents claim Mayor Richard J. Daley and his machine stole election, hinting Daley went so far as to persuade the dead to vote Democratic.

 Barack Hussein Obama Jr.

40something: Will be 47 in November 2008.

1961: Born Aug. 4. Given name means "Blessed" in Swahili, though he is called "Barry" at first. Learning to walk, talk. Year passes without international incident.

Family: Dad from Kenya; mom, Kansas. They met at college in Hawaii, divorced. Their only child. Has half-siblings. Dad died in car crash in Africa.

Education: Harvard law school.

Military :Too young for Vietnam, no service.

Religion: Mother, nonreligious; father, raised Muslim, became atheist. As adult Obama joined United Church of Christ. Would have to persuade voters he can successfully mix religion and politics.

First: Black president of the Harvard Law Review.

Senate: Has served two years of first term.

Celebrity connections: Has appeared on Oprah, has been advised by financier Warren Buffett as well as Oprah Winfrey.

Famous speeches: Democratic National Convention 2004: "The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead."

Books: 1995 autobiography Dreams from My Father. On tour now with The Audacity of Hope.

Ancestral visits: Visited Kenya at least twice. Grandmother still lives there. Unclear how often he's been to Kansas.

Chicago: Lives there, married to Chicago native, taught at University of Chicago law school.

Source: Times archives and wires, World Book Online Reference Center, www.barackobama.com

Compiled by researcher Angie Drobnic Holan

[Last modified October 29, 2006, 05:49:46]


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