Obama shows his sense of humor
In its October 2004 endorsement of Barack Obama for U.S. Senate, the Chicago Tribune wrote that Obama possesses “the tongue of a statesman and the touch of a commoner.” This intricate balance of politician and personality was evident last night when the Illinois Democrat spoke at the Benedict Music Tent in a community event hosted by the Aspen Institute. Walter Isaacson, president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, moderated the conversation, talking with the rising political star on topics as wide-ranging as growing up in an ethnically diverse family, filibusters and the next presidential election. “So how does a skinny black guy from Hawaii with a funny name become a senator from Illinois?” Isaacson began. “It is a testimony to what’s possible in this country,” said Obama, whose dynamic keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention made him an overnight political sensation. On the subject of race relations and the United States as a melting pot, the 43-year-old reflected on his own family as well as the unwavering American spirit. “One of the wonderful things about America is that we come from different ports, but we all have the sense that we can create and re-create ourselves,” said Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and American mother and whose first professional experience was as a community organizer in some of Chicago’s toughest neighborhoods. He said his work in that arena “taught me that ordinary people can do extraordinary things when given the opportunity.” When asked his hopes for a person to replace Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who tendered her resignation from the bench earlier this week, Obama answered, “I hope the White House steps back and realizes they represent the entire country. We need someone who can build enough consensus that the American people feel their views are being represented,” continued the Columbia University and Harvard Law School graduate, who was an Illinois state senator before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. On a lighter note, during a debate over the role of the Internet, blogs and media in swaying public opinion and political outcomes, Obama decried the lack of meaningful conversation among opposing sides. “NPR listeners are not talking to Fox News watchers. Now I’m not picking on Fox news, but …” joked the charismatic Obama in one of several light-hearted, yet pointed jabs at conservatives, George W. Bush and the Republic Party.”Feel free to,” replied Isaacson to a round of applause and laughter from the audience. Continuing on, Isaacson questioned Obama about education reform, the global economy, social issues and the war in Iraq. Lastly, on the subject of our nation’s next president, Isaacson asked whether “Senator Clinton is your party’s most likely nominee?” Obama replied with quick and decisive, “Yes.” The evening ended with more than a dozen audience members posing questions ranging from the role of faith in American politics to the budget deficit to election reform. Obama kept in character when answering, balancing serious replies with a good dose of humor.Aspen City Councilman Torre, for example, asked whether already elected officials even care about campaign reform.”I care …,” Obama replied, “but I imagine some in the Republic Party probably feel the system is working just fine for them.”
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