Following George W. Bush, who only served six years as the Governor of Texas his presidency and hasn't been that well-received, to put it lightly, the American people should make sure they vote for a qualified candidate. And in their never ending coverage of Obama, the American media loves to repeat the "experience question." Barack, a political unknown until his Democratic National Convention Speech in 2004, has been portrayed as "green", the implication being that if he's elected president, he would somehow not be ready to handle the task of the What is experience? Previous presidents have been governors, or had a longer term in the Senate or House, before taking office. All of these experiences prepare a person to operate within the system, rather than to change the system. Yet change is precisely what this nation needs. Barack has correctly pointed out that the two of the most experienced people in Washington, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, have led the U.S. into the disaster of Iraq.
A focus on experience is also a way to avoid talking about qualities such as leadership, intelligence, courage, fairness, judgment, temperament and integrity—qualities that truly matter in a leader. Barack's experience has developed these qualities.
He has ten years experience in public office, more than the two other leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton (six-plus years as Senator from New York) and John Edwards (six years as Senator from North Carolina). Barack's first eight years spent in the Illinois senate before his two years (and counting) of service in the U.S. Senate, should not be forgotten. Far away from the Washington spotlight, he introduced, voted on and passed bills, debated with his colleagues—something that was missing in Washington, where everything is settled in the backroom—and arduously worked to satisfy his constituents. Most important of all, he learned that how to work across the aisle, and get stuff done.
"When you come in, especially as a freshman, and work on something like ethics reform, it's not necessarily a way to endear yourself to some of the veteran members of the Illinois General Assembly," said state Sen. Kirk W. Dillard, a Republican who became a friend. "And working on issues like racial profiling was contentious, but Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics." Washington Post
Illinois State Senate
"In the Illinois State Senate, this meant working with both Democrats and Republicans to help working families get ahead by creating programs like the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which in three years provided over $100 million in tax cuts to families across the state. He also pushed through an expansion of early childhood education, and after a number of inmates on death row were found innocent, Senator Obama worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases." Link
United States Senate
He has continued this inclusive and productive style of work in the U.S. Senate: "In the U.S. Senate, he has focused on tackling the challenges of a globalized, 21st century world with fresh thinking and a politics that no longer settles for the lowest common denominator. His first law was passed with Republican Tom Coburn, a measure to rebuild trust in government by allowing every American to go online and see how and where every dime of their tax dollars are spent. He has also been the lead voice in championing ethics reform that would root out Jack Abramoff-style corruption in Congress.
Obama's foreign policy experience includes graduating from Columbia University with a degree in political science with an emphasis on international relations. In the U.S. Senate Obama is unique among Senators in that he serves on three of the four Senate Committees dealing with foreign policy issues including the Foreign Relations; Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs; and Veterans' Affairs committees and is the Chair of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Relations which is responsible fore U.S. relations with European countries, the European Union, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (i.e., NATO). When comparing Obama's foreign policy experience with other candidates for President you have Democrat Joseph Biden who is Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Hillary Clinton who is a member of the Armed Services Committee and John McCain who is the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee yet there is no Senator except for Barack Obama who serves on three of the four committees that deal with foreign policy.
Foreign Relations Committee
Obama service on the Foreign Relations committee has placed him in an unique position in that he is the Chair of the Subcommittee on European Relations and serves on the Subcommittees on African Affairs; East Asia and Pacific Affairs; and International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection. This cross-section of subcommittees places Obama in a unique position of having knowledge about Asian, African and European issues. The only other member of the Foreign Relations committee who is running for President is Democrat Joseph Biden who is Chairman of the full Foreign Relations Committee yet unlike Obama he does not serve on any of the other foreign policy committees and his experience is limited to foreign policy issues covered by the Foreign Relations Committee.
Obama has also traveled extensively in his capacity as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and has visited Russia, Ukraine, and Azerbaijan in Asia; Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, and the Palestinian Territories in the Middle East; and Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, and South Africa in Africa. Obama has also co-sponsored the "Lugar-Obama Act" with Republican Senator Richard Lugar who was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations at the time. This act was a bi-partisan effort to increase U.S. security in terms of the elimination of conventional weapons and weapons of mass destruction. This legislation came out of Obama's trip with Senator Richard Lugar to Russia, the Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
Obama has also sponsored legislation such as the "Democratic Republic of Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act" which was signed into law by President Bush on December 22, 2006. Obama has co-sponsored immigration related bills related to his service on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee including the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act. His extensive foreign policy experience exceeds that of every other Presidential candidate including his trips abroad in the performance of his official duties as a member of committees dealing with foreign relation issues.
While some have criticized Obama's foreign travel claiming that he is the most traveled freshman Senator in doing so they often fail to mention that as a result of his extensive trips abroad is legislation such as the Lugar-Obama Act instead preferring to make the political connection between his travels abroad to his run for President yet others will recognize the experience he has gained as a result of his foreign trips and recognize that as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he is expected to travel extensively and that his travels often were with the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Among the three top freshman who have received attention along with Obama in terms of foreign travel you have Barack Obama who serves on three committees dealing with foreign policy, Republican Richard Burr who serves on the Select Committee on Intelligence and Republican Tom Coburn who serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and it must be noted that such travel was part of an official delegation and was approved and paid for by the Senate.
Veterans' Affairs Committee
As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Obama has fought to help Illinois veterans get the disability pay they were promised, while working to prepare the VA for the return of the thousands of veterans who will need care after Iraq and Afghanistan. Recognizing the terrorist threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, he traveled to Russia with Republican Dick Lugar to begin a new generation of non-proliferation efforts designed to find and secure deadly weapons around the world. And knowing the threat we face to our economy and our security from America's addiction to oil, he's working to bring auto companies, unions, farmers, businesses and politicians of both parties together to promote the greater use of alternative fuels and higher fuel standards in our cars."Link
"Obama has made ethics reform a central part of his political career. Two years into his first term in the U.S. Senate, he has had limited opportunities to leave a mark at the federal level, especially as a member of the minority party. But he has worked with Republicans on new good-government laws. He co-sponsored one, signed in September, that will create a federal spending database so Web users can track all grants, loans and awards greater than $25,000. He also pushed to limit the Federal Emergency Management Agency's authority to award open-ended, no-bid contracts in the wake of major disasters — a reaction to post-Katrina abuses. More to the point, last year Senate Democrats tapped Obama as the chief negotiator for their caucus in talks over post-Abramoff ethics reforms, though those negotiations faltered. Ethics reform was one of Obama's signature issues in Springfield, as well. Beyond the Gift Ban Act, he helped push Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich's 2003 ethics reforms. The gift ban law, the first broad ethics reform in Illinois since the Watergate era, prohibited politicians from using campaign funds for personal use, barred fundraising on state property, established ethics commissions, curtailed fundraisers in Springfield during legislative sessions and mandated online reporting of campaign finances. The 2003 ethics package created independent inspectors general with subpoena powers to look into abuses by legislators, statewide officeholders and their employees. It further clamped down on the types of gifts lawmakers can receive and prohibited lobbyists and their spouses from sitting on state boards and commissions. Obama also touted publicly financed judicial campaigns, an idea that was approved by the Illinois Senate but languished in the House."Link
Read more about Obama's work in the U.S. Senate on Obsidian Wings
This experience in public office is just a taste of what makes Obama ready for the presidency. He has had a goulash of a life. He was born to white a woman from Kansas and a black man from Kenya in Hawaii, then moved to Indonesia for five years with his step-father from ages six to ten.
After returning to Hawaii for middle and high school, he went Occidental College, a liberal arts school in L.A. After a couple years at Occidental, he transferred to Columbia University, where he majored in political science with a specialization in International Relations.
After graduating, he went to work as a community organizer in Chicago. Following three years of helping some of Chicago's poorest residents recover from a steel mill closing through job training programs, he went to Harvard Law. There, he became the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review. Instead of seeking a high paying job upon graduating from Harvard, he returned to Chicago and went back to the neighborhood communities by organizing and helping to register 150,000 voters. He then began working at a civil rights firm and went on to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He did all of this before his career in politics began.
His ability to understand and earn respect from political opponents while being a genuine progressive; his success in the classroom and on the street; and his unparalleled background have helped him become the intelligent, fair, and courageous leader he is today.
Before the war in Iraq in 2002, he exclaimed: "Now let me be clear: I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power.... The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history. I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars. So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president." Link
For a short overview of his years in the Illinois State Legislature check out his wikipedia page or our building collection of transcripts from the Illinois State Senate.