Tagged with "blogs"
Spiritual Wellness Tags: spiritual wellness word life production new quality entertainment health mental wellness featured blogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritual wellness is finding meaning in life events, demonstrating individual purpose and having the ability to be compassionate towards others.

Spirituality is unique to each individual. Your “spirit” usually refers to the deepest part of you, the part that lets you make meaning of your world. Your spirit provides you with the revealing sense of who you are, why you are here and what your purpose for living is. It is that innermost part of you that allows you to gain strength and hope.

Spiritual wellness may not be something that you think much of, yet its impact on your life is unavoidable. The basis of spirituality is discovering a sense of meaningfulness in your life and coming to know that you have a purpose to fulfill.

Reaching Your Potential

Does being spiritual mean you have to believe in God?

No. Many factors play a part in defining spirituality: religious faith, beliefs, values, ethics, principles and morals. Some gain spirituality by growing in their personal relationships with others, or through being at peace with nature. Spirituality allows us to find the inner calm and peace needed to get through whatever life brings, no matter what your beliefs are or where you may be on your spiritual journey.

What are some sign of spiritual wellness?

  • Development of a purpose in life
  • Ability to spend reflective time alone
  • Taking time to reflect on the meaning of events in life
  • Having a clear sense of right and wrong, and act accordingly
  • Ability to explain why you believe what you believe
  • Caring and acting for the welfare of others and the environment
  • Being able to practice forgiveness and compassion in life

What does spirituality have to do with health?

The human spirit is the most neglected aspect of our selves. Just as we exercise to condition our bodies, a healthy spirit is nurtured by purposeful practice. The spirit is the aspect of ourselves that can carry us through anything. If we take care of our spirit, we will be able to experience a sense of peace and purpose even when life deals us a severe blow. A strong spirit helps us to survive and thrive with grace, even in the face of difficulty.

Spirituality Practices 

Labyrinths 

Labyrinths have long been use as a meditation and prayer tool. It is used for walking meditation to assist us in finding peace and clarity, managing stress, assisting with decision making, self-exploration and reflection. 

Mandalas 

Mandala means “sacred circle” in Sanskrit. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas are used to facilitate meditation and are used in sacred rites as a transformative tool to assist with healing. 

Meditation 

Meditation is an experience of relaxing the body, quieting the mind, and awakening the spirit. Meditation encourages a deepening of consciousness or awareness, and also facilitates a deeper understanding of self and others.

Dominique Wilkins - NBA Legend Tags: sports entertainment dominique wilkins nba legend word life production new quality entertainment featured blogs

One of the NBA's true marquee players for more than a decade, Dominique Wilkins earned the nickname "Human Highlight Film" with a plethora of spectacular individual plays dating back to his college years at Georgia. A member of the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1983, the high-flying 6-8 forward was been named to seven All-NBA teams and nine consecutive All-Star squads and is a two-time winner of the NBA Slam-Dunk Championship.

In 1986 he won the NBA scoring title with an average of 30.3 points per game, and in 1992 he set an NBA record by sinking 23 free throws in a game without a miss. He's the Atlanta Hawks' all-time franchise leader in both scoring and steals.

One of only 12 players to score over 25,000 points in his NBA career, Wilkins returned to the NBA in 1996-97 after one year in Europe and led the San Antonio Spurs in scoring with an 18.2 average at the age of 37. He left the NBA ranked seventh on the all-time scoring list with 26,534 points and 10th in career scoring average at 25.3 ppg.

Born in Paris, France, where his father was stationed while with the Air Force, Wilkins attended high school in Washington, North Carolina. The older brother of NBA player Gerald Wilkins, Dominique attended college at Georgia, where he averaged 21.6 points over three seasons. It was his acrobatic exploits there that earned him the nickname of the "Human Highlight Film."

He entered the 1982 NBA Draft after his junior year and was selected by the Utah Jazz with the third overall pick. He refused to sign with the Jazz, however, and was dealt in September, 1982 to the Atlanta Hawks for John Drew, Freeman Williams and cash. Wilkins was an instant hit for the Hawks, averaging 17.5 ppg as a rookie. He came back in his second season with an average of 21.6 ppg, starting a remarkable streak in which he would average above 20 points per contest for 11 consecutive seasons.

Wilkins was instrumental to the Hawks' success in the late 1980s as the club recorded 50 wins in four straight seasons from 1985-86 to 1988-89. During that span he poured in more than 30 points per game twice, and for the four years combined he averaged 29.1 ppg. In 1988 he also scored 29 points in 30 minutes of action in the All-Star Game. In the postseason he averaged 31.2 points and despite the Hawks narrowly missing out on reaching the Eastern Conference Finals after losing to the Boston Celtics by a mere two points in Game 7 of the conference semifinals, he ganied more respect as a result of his epic battle with Larry Bird.

In the early 1990s, while the Hawks were slipping from a 50-win team to a .500 ballclub, Wilkins evolved from a pure scorer into a more all-around contributor. In 1990-91 he grabbed a career-high 9.0 rebounds per contest, and he topped 3 assists per game that year for the first time. Nearly injury-free for most of his career, he suffered a season-ending rupture of his Achilles tendon midway through the 1991-92 campaign.

Some thought the injury might end Wilkins's career, but the 32-year-old bounced back in grand fashion the next year, averaging 29.9 ppg to finish second to Michael Jordan for the league scoring crown while maintaining his solid all-around play. That same season he became the 17th player in NBA history to rack up 20,000 points.

Midway through the 1993-94 season -- Wilkins' 12th with Atlanta -- the Hawks shocked their fans by trading their all-time leading scorer to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danny Manning. Wilkins became a free agent after the season and signed with the Boston Celtics for 1994-95. Although he was the Celtics' leading scorer, his average of 17.8 points per game was his lowest mark since his rookie season.

The summer following the season, Wilkins, unhappy with his role on the rebuilding Celtics, signed to play for Panathinaikos Athens of the Greek League. He averaged 20.9 points and 7.0 rebounds in 14 games for Panathinaikos and led the team to the European Championship for Men's Clubs in 1996. Wilkins was named the MVP of the European Final Four in Paris.

Before the 1996-97 season, he returned to the NBA, signing a contract as a free agent with the San Antonio Spurs, who were seeking to add bench scoring. Wilkins gave them more than they could have hoped for, leading the team with an average of 18.2 ppg in 1996-97 and also contributing 6.4 rpg. However, after one season, Wilkins once again went overseas, this time signing a contract with Teamsystem in Italy for the 1997-98 season.

He returend to play his last season in the NBA during the 1998-99 campaign alongside his brother Gerald with the Orland Magic. In only 27 games, he averaged just 5.0 ppg and 2.6 rpg but will always be remembered as one of the game's most exciting players.

Source: NBA Encyclopedia

Soul R&B Legend- The Manhattans Tags: soul r&b legend manhattans word life production new quality entertainment featured blogs

The Manhattans were one of those classic R&B vocal groups who manage to achieve incredible career longevity by adapting their style to fit changing times. Formed in the '60s as a doo wop-influenced R&B quintet, The Manhattans reinvented themselves as sweet smooth soul balladeers during the '70s. In doing so, they somehow overcame the death of lead singer George Smith, and with new frontman Gerald Alston became more popular than they'd ever been, landing an across-the-board number one hit in 1976 with "Kiss and Say Goodbye." Under the leadership of Winfred "Blue" Lovett (who also composed some of the group's biggest hits), The Manhattans survived as a viable chart act well into the '80s, over two decades after their formation.

The Manhattans got together not in their namesake location, but in nearby Jersey City, NJ, in 1962. The group was centered around lead singer George "Smitty" Smith and bass (and sometime lead) vocalist Winfred "Blue" Lovett; the other original members were Kenny Kelley, Richard Taylor, and Edward "Sonny" Bivins, the latter of whom sometimes co-wrote material with accomplished songwriter Lovett. In 1964, The Manhattans signed with the Newark-based Carnival label and teamed up with producer Joe Evans; they scored their first hit in early 1965 with "I Wanna Be (Your Everything)," a number 12 R&B hit that established their way with a ballad right from the beginning. It was the first of eight singles for Carnival, a string that continued up through 1967. None were huge hits, but nearly all of them reached the Top 30 on the R&B charts, and are still prized by collectors of vocal-group soul for their aching harmonies, Smith's intense leads, and lack of concession to mainstream pop audiences.

In 1969, The Manhattans signed on with DeLuxe and issued several singles over the course of 1970. Unfortunately, Smith fell ill that year, and the group hired Phil Terrell as a temporary fill-in. Sadly, Smith passed away in 1971; he was replaced on lead vocals by Gerald Alston, who brought a smoother, more pop-friendly sound to the group. That quality soon became apparent when the Lovett-penned "One Life to Live" zoomed into the R&B Top Five in late 1972, giving The Manhattans their first major hit. The following year, they left DeLuxe for Columbia, where their debut single, "There's No Me Without You" (written by Sonny Bivins), equaled the R&B chart peak of "One Life to Live" by reaching number three. Initially working with producer Bobby Martin, The Manhattans' records now fell into line with the sweet, string-laden sound of contemporary '70s soul. The Manhattans hit the R&B Top Ten again in 1974 with "Don't Take Your Love" and 1975 with "Hurt," but their biggest success was still to come.

In early 1975, The Manhattans had recorded a Blue Lovett composition called "Kiss and Say Goodbye," which was released as a single almost a full year later. It became the second platinum single in history (after Johnnie Taylor's "Disco Lady") and their first number one hit in the spring of 1976, not just on the R&B charts, but the pop side as well -- a remarkable feat, considering that they'd never had a single peak higher than number 37 on that survey. While it proved difficult to match the crossover success of "Kiss and Say Goodbye," The Manhattans reeled off a string of Top Ten R&B hits -- "I Kinda Miss You," "It Feels So Good to Be Loved So Bad," "We Never Danced to a Love Song," and "Am I Losing You" -- that lasted into early 1978 and made them staples on the newly emerging quiet storm radio format. Their momentum slowed over the next couple of years, but they came back strong in 1980 with "Shining Star" -- not a cover of the Earth, Wind & Fire hit, but a co-write by their new producer Leo Graham. "Shining Star" reached the Top Five on both the pop and R&B charts, went gold, and won a Grammy -- overall, not a bad haul.

The Manhattans' last major hit came with 1983's "Crazy," which put them in the R&B Top Five for the final time; they bade farewell to the Top 40 in 1985 with a cover of Sam Cooke's "You Send Me." That year Richard Taylor left the group, which carried on as a quartet for a few years; Taylor passed away in December 1987. Gerald Alston signed with Motown as a solo artist in 1988, upon which point the group finally parted ways with Columbia and recorded an album for the small Valley Vue label before disbanding. Alston and Lovett reunited in 1993; with new members Troy May and David Tyson, they toured regularly into the new millennium, with the occasional recording appearing on a small label.

Source: All Music-Artist Biography by Steve Huey

 

Florence Griffith Joyner was known as one of the fastest competitive runners of the 1980s. Tags: florence griffith joyner olympic star word life production feature blogs

"[Florence Griffith Joyner] was someone who wanted to make a fashion statement, as well as do it while running so fast you could barely see the fashion," says Phil Hersh of the Chicago Tribune on ESPN Classic's SportsCentury series.

Florence Griffith Joyner

Florence Griffith Joyner still holds the world record in the 100- and 200-meters.

With her outrageous looks and lightning speed, Florence Griffith Joyner captivated the world. Her racing attire consisted of a variety of outfits -- some lace, some fluorescent, some bearing one leg. Her nails, sometimes longer than four inches, became a trademark.

In 1988, FloJo arrived in Korea for the Olympics as the favorite to win the 100- and 200-meter dashes. Just two months earlier at the U.S. Olympic Trials, she obliterated Evelyn Ashford's world record of 10.76 seconds in the 100 with her time of 10.49 and ran the four fastest 100s ever (though one was wind-aided). She also set an American record in winning the 200.

In the 100-meter final in Seoul, the 5-foot-7, 130-pound Joyner bettered the Olympic record with her 10.54, but because it was wind-aided it didn't go into the record book. On the way to the gold medal, she broke the Olympic mark three times in four races -- which gave her the seven fastest 100-meter times in history.

She blistered Marita Koch's world record of 21.71 seconds by running a 21.56 in the semifinals of the 200 meters. Then, less than two hours later, she bettered that mark with an amazing 21.34 in capturing her second gold medal.

But the drug scandal at the 1988 Olympics overshadowed her achievements. When the men's 100-meter winner, Ben Johnson, had his gold medal stripped because he tested positive for steroids, FloJo's races were looked on with skepticism.

Some suspected her of using performance-enhancing substances because of her incredible physique and stunning improvements in the past year. Brazilian middle-distance runner Joaquim Cruz accused FloJo of using performance-enhancing drugs. Magazines ran two photos side-by-side depicting her facial differences between 1984 and 1988.

Through it all, FloJo maintained that she never used drugs. Although she tested negative on all of her drug tests, the rumors kept swirling. And soon she left the sport she loved.

The seventh of 11 children, Florence Delorez Griffith was born on Dec. 21, 1959 in Mojave, Cal., 90 miles north of Los Angeles. When she was four, her mother Florence, a seamstress, left her father Robert, who was an electrical technician, and moved the family into the Jordan Downs housing project in the Watts section of Los Angeles.

As a child, Florence attempted many things. She sewed together her own clothes for her Barbie dolls and constantly tried on her mother's dresses. She had handstand competitions with her siblings and neighborhood kids. She rode to the store on a unicycle. She even trained a pet rat, and once was asked to leave a mall when she came with a pet snake around her neck.

Her speed was shown at an early age. The Griffith children spent some time with their father in the Mojave Desert and when Florence was five, he dared her to chase jackrabbits. Eventually, she caught one. She ran potato-sack racing in a park. By the time she was seven, she was running track.

At Jordan High School, she set school records in the sprints and long jump. After graduating in 1978, she helped California State Northridge win the national championship the following year. Her sprint coach was Bob Kersee.

After the title, she dropped out of school for financial reasons and worked as a bank teller. In 1980, she enrolled at UCLA, where Kersee had become an assistant coach.

Florence Griffith Joyner

Florence Griffith Joyner's world record of 10.49 in the 100 meters has stood since 1988.

As a junior in 1982, she won her first individual NCAA title, taking the 200 meters in 22.39 seconds. In 1983, although she slipped back to a second-place finish in the 200, she won the 400 in 50.94. After graduating UCLA that year with a degree in psychology, she finished fourth in the 200 at the World Championships.

At the 200 at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, she ran a 22.02 to take the silver medal, beaten by Valerie Brisco-Hooks, who set an Olympic record of 21.81.

After the 1985 track season, without financial means of support, she again went to work at a bank. At night, she often styled her friends' hair and nails. Depending on the style, she charged between $45 and $200 for braids that would last five months. Meanwhile, she still found time to train under Kersee, and at the 1987 World Championships she won the silver medal in the 200 with a time of 21.96.

On Oct. 10, 1987, Griffith became part of the first family of track and field when she married Al Joyner, the 1984 Olympic triple jump gold medalist and brother of heptathlon Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

The following July, FloJo exploded into national prominence at the 1988 Olympic Trials in Indianapolis. With her 10.49 seconds in the 100 meters, she crushed Ashford's four-year-old world record. Controversy came immediately when the wind reading of 0.0 appeared. Just 30 feet away on the triple-jump anemometer, winds swirled at an unacceptable 4.3 meters per second, and almost every sprint that day had a wind reading.

But Joyner's record was upheld. The next day, she won the final in 10.61 with a legal wind of 1.2 meters, leaving no doubt that she was the "fastest woman in the world."

A week after the Trials, Joyner left Kersee's training camp and hired a business manager. Her husband Al took over as her fulltime coach. Financial differences and a lack of attention were the reasons given for the switch.

On Sept. 25, 1988, FloJo won her first Olympic gold medal. She got a terrific start in the 100 meters and past the halfway point she was smiling. Finishing in her wind-aided 10.54 seconds, she easily defeated Ashford, the defending champion.

Four days later, she astounded the track world with her world-record performance in the 200, pulling away in the second half of the race to beat Grace Jackson by .38 seconds. FloJo capped her Olympics by winning a third gold in the 4x100-meter relay and a silver in the 4x400 relay.

 

But four months later, the word's fastest woman was gone from track and field.

In February 1989, the 29-year-old Joyner made the stunning announcement that she was retiring from competitive running to concentrate on business opportunities, such as acting and writing. Although she had invited anyone to test her every week if it would prove she didn't use drugs, some felt that she was fleeing the sport while she could.

The rumors, though, wouldn't cease. Later in 1989, sprinter Darrell Robinson told a German magazine, Stern, that FloJo paid him $2,000 for 10 cubic centimeters of human growth hormone the previous year. She denied the accusations vehemently. Appearing on The Today Show with him, she called Robinson "a compulsive, crazy, lying lunatic."

After her retirement, FloJo wrote children's books, poetry and a romance novel. She began an acting career, making guest appearances on the sitcom 227 and the soap opera Santa Barbara. She established her own clothing design and cosmetics businesses. She fulfilled a lifelong dream as a fashion designer, even designing uniforms for the Indiana Pacers in 1989. While she trained for long-distance running, she never made a serious comeback.

On Nov. 15, 1990, she gave birth to her only child, Mary Ruth Joyner.

In April 1996, Joyner was rushed to Washington University's Barnes-Jewish Hospital after suffering a seizure on a flight to St. Louis. Two-and-a-half years later, she suffered a much more serious seizure.

Ten years after capturing the admiration of America, while sleeping in her home in Mission Viejo, Cal., she died of suffocation during a severe epileptic seizure on Sept. 21, 1998. Florence Griffith Joyner was 38 years old. While questions resurfaced about drugs, the autopsy did not reveal any use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs in her system.

FloJo still owns the world records in both the 100 and 200 meters.

Source: ESPN Classic

 

Barack Obama
Category: Black Men Rock!
Tags: barack obama black men rock word life production featured blogs

Born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, Barack Obama is the 44th and current president of the United States. He was a civil-rights lawyer and teacher before pursuing a political career. He was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996, serving from 1997 to 2004. He was elected to the U.S. presidency in 2008, and won re-election in 2012 against Republican challenger Mitt Romney. President Obama continues to enact policy changes in response to the issues of health care and economic crisis.

Early Life

Barack Hussein Obama was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. His mother, Ann Dunham, grew up in Wichita, Kansas, where her father worked on oil rigs during the Great Depression. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dunham's father, Stanley, enlisted in the service and marched across Europe in Patton's army. Dunham's mother, Madelyn, went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, the couple studied on the G.I. Bill, bought a house through the Federal Housing Program and, after several moves, landed in Hawaii.

Barack Obama's father, Barack Obama Sr., was born of Luo ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya. Obama Sr. grew up herding goats in Africa, eventually earning a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya and pursue his dreams of college in Hawaii. While studying at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, Obama Sr. met fellow student Ann Dunham, and they married on February 2, 1961. Barack was born six months later.

Obama did not have a relationship with his father as a child. When his son was still an infant, Obama Sr. relocated to Massachusetts to attend Harvard University, pursuing a Ph.D. Barack's parents officially separated several months later and ultimately divorced in March 1964, when their son was 2. In 1965, Obama Sr. returned to Kenya.

In 1965, Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, an East–West Center student from Indonesia. A year later, the family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Barack's half-sister, Maya Soetoro Ng, was born. Several incidents in Indonesia left Dunham afraid for her son's safety and education so, at the age of 10, Barack was sent back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents. His mother and sister later joined them.

Excelling in School

While living with his grandparents, Obama enrolled in the esteemed Punahou Academy, excelling in basketball and graduating with academic honors in 1979. As one of only three black students at the school, Obama became conscious of racism and what it meant to be African-American. He later described how he struggled to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage with his own sense of self: "I began to notice there was nobody like me in the Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog ... and that Santa was a white man," he said. "I went to the bathroom and stood in front of the mirror with all my senses and limbs seemingly intact, looking the way I had always looked, and wondered if something was wrong with me."

Obama also struggled with the absence of his father, who he saw only once more after his parents divorced, when Obama Sr. visited Hawaii for a short time in 1971. "[My father] had left paradise, and nothing that my mother or grandparents told me could obviate that single, unassailable fact," he later reflected. "They couldn't describe what it might have been like had he stayed."

Ten years later, in 1981, tragedy struck Obama Sr. He was involved in a serious car accident, losing both of his legs as a result. Confined to a wheelchair, he also lost his job. In 1982, Obama Sr. was involved in yet another car accident while traveling in Nairobi. This time, however, the crash was fatal. Obama Sr. died on November 24, 1982, when Barack was 21 years old. "At the time of his death, my father remained a myth to me," Obama later said, "both more and less than a man."

After high school, Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York, graduating in 1983 with a degree in political science. After working in the business sector for two years, Obama moved to Chicago in 1985. There, he worked on the South Side as a community organizer for low-income residents in the Roseland and the Altgeld Gardens communities.

Law Career

It was during this time that Barack Obama, who said he "was not raised in a religious household," joined the Trinity United Church of Christ. He also visited relatives in Kenya, which included an emotional visit to the graves of his biological father and paternal grandfather. "For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept," Obama said. "I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I'd witnessed in Chicago—all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away."

Obama returned from Kenya with a sense of renewal, entering Harvard Law School in 1988. The next year, he met Michelle Robinson, an associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin. She was assigned to be Obama's adviser during a summer internship at the firm, and not long after, the couple began dating. Their first kiss took place outside of a Chicago shopping center—where a plaque featuring a photo of the couple kissing was installed more than two decades later, in August 2012. In February 1990, Obama was elected the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from Harvard, magna cum laude, in 1991.

After law school, Obama returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer, joining the firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland. He also taught part time at the University of Chicago Law School (1992-2004)—first as a lecturer and then as a professor—and helped organize voter registration drives during Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. On October 3, 1992, he and Michelle were married. They moved to Kenwood, on Chicago's South Side, and welcomed two daughters several years later: Malia (born 1998) and Sasha (born 2001).

Entry into Illinois Politics

Obama published an autobiography, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, in 1995. The work received high praise from literary figures like Toni Morrison and has since been printed in 10 languages, including Chinese, Swedish and Hebrew. The book had a second printing in 2004, and was adapted for a children's version. The 2006 audiobook version of Dreams, narrated by Obama, received a Grammy Award (best spoken word album).

Obama's advocacy work led him to run for a seat in the Illinois State Senate. He ran as a Democrat, and won election in 1996. During these years, Obama worked with both Democrats and Republicans to draft legislation on ethics, and expand health care services and early childhood education programs for the poor. He also created a state earned-income tax credit for the working poor. Obama became chairman of the Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services Committee as well, and after a number of inmates on death row were found innocent, he worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.

In 2000, Obama made an unsuccessful Democratic primary run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by four-term incumbent candidate Bobby Rush. Undeterred, he created a campaign committee in 2002, and began raising funds to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004. With the help of political consultant David Axelrod, Obama began assessing his prospects of a Senate win.

Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Obama was an early opponent of President George W. Bush's push to go to war with Iraq. Obama was still a state senator when he spoke against a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq during a rally at Chicago's Federal Plaza in October 2002. "I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars," he said. "What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne." Despite his protests, the Iraq War began in 2003.

U.S. Senate Career

Obama, encouraged by poll numbers, decided to run for the U.S. Senate open seat vacated by Republican Peter Fitzgerald. In the 2004 Democratic primary, he won 52 percent of the vote, defeating multimillionaire businessman Blair Hull and Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes. That summer, he was invited to deliver the keynote speech in support of John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. Obama emphasized the importance of unity, and made veiled jabs at the Bush Administration and the diversionary use of wedge issues.

After the convention, Obama returned to his U.S. Senate bid in Illinois. His opponent in the general election was supposed to be Republican primary winner Jack Ryan, a wealthy former investment banker. However, Ryan withdrew from the race in June 2004, following public disclosure of unsubstantiated sexual deviancy allegations by Ryan's ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan.

His opponent in the general election was supposed to be Republican primary winner Jack Ryan, a wealthy former investment banker. However, Ryan withdrew from the race in June 2004, following public disclosure of unsubstantiated sexual deviancy allegations by Ryan's ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan.

They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met."

First 100 Days

Between Inauguration Day and April 29, 2009, the Obama Administration took to the field on many fronts. Obama coaxed Congress to expand health care insurance for children and provide legal protection for women seeking equal pay. A $787 billion stimulus bill was passed to promote short-term economic growth. Housing and credit markets were put on life support, with a market-based plan to buy U.S. banks' toxic assets. Loans were made to the auto industry, and new regulations were proposed for Wall Street. He also cut taxes for working families, small businesses and first-time home buyers. The president also loosened the ban on embryonic stem cell research and moved ahead with a $3.5 trillion budget plan.

Over his first 100 days in office, President Obama also undertook a complete overhaul of America's foreign policy. He reached out to improve relations with Europe, China and Russia and to open dialogue with Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. He lobbied allies to support a global economic stimulus package. He committed an additional 21,000 troops to Afghanistan and set an August 2010 date for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. In more dramatic incidents, he took on pirates off the coast of Somalia and prepared the nation for a swine flu attack. For his efforts, he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize by the Nobel Committee in Norway.

2010 State of the Union

On January 27, 2010, President Obama delivered his first State of the Union speech. During his oration, Obama addressed the challenges of the economy, proposing a fee for larger banks, announcing a possible freeze on government spending in 2010 and speaking against the Supreme Court's reversal of a law capping campaign finance spending. He also challenged politicians to stop thinking of re-election and start making positive changes, criticizing Republicans for their refusal to support any legislation, and chastizing Democrats for not pushing hard enough to get legislation passed. He also insisted that, despite obstacles, he was determined to help American citizens through the nation's current domestic difficulties. "We don't quit. I don't quit," he said. "Let's seize this moment to start anew, to carry the dream forward, and strengthen our union once more."

Challenges & Successes

In the second part of his term as president, Obama has faced a number of obstacles and scored some victories as well. He signed his health-care reform plan, known as the Affordable Care Act, into law in March 2010. Obama's plan is intended to strengthen consumers' rights and to provide affordable insurance coverage and greater access to medical care. His opponents, however, claim that "Obamacare," as they have called it, added new costs to the country's overblown budget and may violate the Constitution with its requirement for individuals to obtain insurance.

On the economic front, Obama has worked hard to steer the country through difficult financial times. He signed the Budget Control Act of 2011 in effort to rein in government spending and prevent the government from defaulting on its financial obligations.

In August 2004, diplomat and former presidential candidate Alan Keyes accepted the Republican nomination to replace Ryan. In three televised debates, Obama and Keyes expressed opposing views on stem cell research, abortion, gun control, school vouchers and tax cuts. In the November 2004 general election, Obama received 70 percent of the vote to Keyes' 27 percent, the largest electoral victory in Illinois history. With his win, Barack Obama became only the third African-American elected to the U.S. Senate since the Reconstruction.

Sworn into office January 4, 2005, Obama partnered with Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana on a bill that expanded efforts to destroy weapons of mass destruction in Eastern Europe and Russia. Then, with Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, he created a website to track all federal spending. Obama also spoke out for victims of Hurricane Katrina, pushed for alternative energy development, and championed improved veterans' benefits.

His second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, was published in October 2006. The work discussed Obama's visions for the future of America, many of which became talking points for his eventual presidential campaign. Shortly after its release, it hit No. 1 on both the New York Times and Amazon.com best-seller lists.

2008 Presidential Election

In February 2007, Obama made headlines when he announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. He was locked in a tight battle with former first lady and then-U.S. senator from New York Hillary Rodham Clinton. On June 3, 2008, however, Obama became the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, and Senator Clinton delivered her full support to Obama for the duration of his campaign. On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee John McCain, 52.9 percent to 45.7 percent, winning election as the 44th president of the United States—and the first African-American to hold this office. His running mate, Delaware Senator Joe Biden, became vice president. Obama's inauguration took place on January 20, 2009.

When Obama took office, he inherited a global economic recession, two ongoing foreign wars and the lowest international favorability rating for the United States ever. He campaigned on an ambitious agenda of financial reform, alternative energy, and reinventing education and health care—all while bringing down the national debt. Because these issues were intertwined with the economic well-being of the nation, he believed all would have to be undertaken simultaneously. During his inauguration speech, Obama summarized the situation by saying, "Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.

The act also called for the creation of a bipartisan committee to seek solutions to the country's fiscal issues, but the group failed to reach any agreement on how to solve these problems.

Obama has also handled a number of military and security issues during his presidency. In 2011, he helped repeal the military policy known as "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," which prevented openly gay troops from serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. He also gave the green light to a 2011 covert operation in Pakistan, which led to the killing of infamous al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden by a team of U.S. Navy SEALs.

Obama made headlines again in June 2012, when a mandate included in his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (initiated in 2010) was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, thus allowing other important pieces of the law to stay intact. The law includes free health screenings for certain citizens, restrictions to stringent insurance company policies and permission for citizens under age 26 to be insured under parental plans, among several other provisions. In a 5-4 decision, the Court voted to uphold the mandate under which citizens are required to purchase health insurance or pay a tax—a main provision of Obama's health-care law—stating that while the mandate is unconstitutional, according to the Constitution's commerce clause, it falls within Congress' constitutional power to tax.

Re-Election & Second Term

As he did in 2008, during his campaign for a second presidential term, Obama focused on grassroots initiatives. Celebrities such as Anna Wintour and Sarah Jessica Parker aided the president's campaign by hosting fund-raising events.

"I guarantee you, we will move this country forward," Obama stated in June 2012, at a campaign event in Maryland. "We will finish what we started. And we'll remind the world just why it is the United States of America is the greatest nation on Earth."

In the 2012 election, Obama faced Republican opponent Mitt Romney and Romney's vice-presidential running mate, U.S. Representative Paul Ryan. On the evening of November 6, 2012, Obama was announced the winner of the election, gaining a second four-year term as president. Early election results indicated a close race. By midnight on Election Day, however, Obama had received more than 270 electoral votes—the number of votes required to win a U.S. presidential election; later results showed that the president had won nearly 60 percent of the electoral vote, as well as the popular vote by more than 1 million ballots.

Nearly one month after President Obama's re-election, the nation endured one of its most tragic school shootings to date: On December 14, 2012, 20 children and six adult workers were shot to death at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Two days after the attack, Obama delivered a speech at an interfaith vigil for the victims in Newtown, discussing a need for change in order to make schools safer, and alluding to implementing stricter gun control. "These tragedies must end," Obama stated.

"We can't accept events like these as routine. In the coming weeks, I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement, to mental-health professionals, to parents and educators, in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this, because what choice do we have? . . . Are we really prepared to say that we're powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?"

Obama achieved a major legislative victory on January 1, 2013, when the Republican-controlled House of Representatives approved a bipartisan agreement on tax increases and spending cuts, in an effort to avoid the looming fiscal cliff crisis (the Senate voted in favor of the bill earlier that day). The agreement marked a productive first step toward the president's re-election promise of reducing the federal defecit by raising taxes on the extremely wealthy—individuals earning more than $400,000 per year and couples earning more than $450,000, according to the bill. Prior to the the bill's passage, in late 2012, tense negotiations between Republicans and Democrats over spending cuts and tax increases became a bitter political battle. Vice President Joe Biden managed to hammer out a deal with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Obama pledged to sign the bill into law.

Barack Obama officially began his second term on January 21, 2013. The inauguration was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, gave the invocation. James Taylor, Beyoncé Knowles and Kelly Clarkson sang at the ceremony and poet Richard Blanco read his poem "One Today." U.S. Supreme Court Chief John Roberts conducted Obama's presidential oath of office. After completing his oath, Obama was congratulated by his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha.

In his inaugural address, Obama called the nation to action on such issues as climate change, health care and marriage equality. "We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today's victories will be only partial and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years and 40 years and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall," Obama told the crowd gathered in front of the U.S. Capitol building.

Celebrations continued that day. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama attended two official inauguration balls, including one held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. There the first couple danced the Al Green classic "Let's Stay Together," sung by Jennifer Hudson. Alicia Keys and Jamie Foxx also performed.

After the inauguration, Obama led the nation through many challenges. None more difficult perhaps, the bombing of the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. Three people were killed and more than 200 people were injured in this terror attack. Obama traveled to Boston to speak at a memorial service three days after the bombings.

To the wounded, he said "Your country is with you. We will all be with you as you learn to stand and walk and, yes, run again. Of that I have no doubt. You will run again." And he applauded the city's citizen’s response to this tragedy. "You’ve shown us, Boston, that in the face of evil, Americans will lift up what’s good. In the face of cruelty, we will choose compassion."

Obama had suffered a significant drop in his approval ratings in a CNN/ORC International poll. He declined to an approval rating of only 45 percent—his lowest rating in more than 18 months. The poll results meant that more than half of Americans disapproved of how Obama was doing as president. Experts attribute the ratings slide to several factors, including the controversy surrounding the NSA surveillance program.

Obama defended the NSA's program, which includes email monitoring and telephone wiretapping, during a visit to Germany that June. "We are not rifling through the emails of German citizens or American citizens or French citizens or anyone else,” he said, according to the Financial Times. "The encroachment on privacy has been strictly limited." Obama stated that the program has helped stop roughly 50 threats.

In early July 2013, President Obama made history when he joined former President George W. Bush in Africa to commemorate the 15th anniversary of Osama bin Laden's first U.S. attack. The event marked the first meeting between two U.S. presidents on foreign soil in commemoration of an act of terrorism.

Later that month, Obama spoke out about the Trayvon Martin murder trial and the outrage that followed the jury's verdict. His shooter George Zimmerman was acquitted of killing the African American teen in Florida. In a White House press conference, the president said that "when Trayvon Martin was first shot I said that this could have been my son. Another way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." Obama explained that this particular case was a state matter, but he discussed how the federal government could address some of the legislative and racial issues brought up by this situation.

Obama found himself grappling with an international crisis in late August and September 2013. It was discovered that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons against civilians. According to the White House website, Obama said that "thousands of people, including over 400 children," had been killed in these attacks. Syria's actions present "a serious national security threat to the United States and to the region, and as a consequence, Assad and Syria needs to be held accountable." The president then worked to persuade Congress and the international community at large to take action against Syria.

As the positions of the members of Congress revealed that the majority was in favor of refraining from striking Syria, Obama announced an alternative solution. During an address on forthcoming action against Syria made on September 10, 2013, Obama stated that if al-Assad agreed with the stipulations outlined in a proposal made by Russia to give up its chemical weapons, then a direct strike against the nation could be avoided.

Al-Assad acknowledged the possession of chemical weapons and was receptive to the idea of a proposal from Russia, however Obama stated that "It's too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments."

Later that month, Obama made diplomatic strides with Iran. He spoke with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani on the phone, which marked the first time the leaders of the two countries have had direct contact in decades. This groundbreaking move by Obama is seen by many as a sign of thawing in the relationship between the United States and Iran. According to an NBC News report, Obama said that "The two of us discussed our ongoing efforts to reach an agreement over Iran's nuclear program." Obama expressed some optimism that a deal on the issue could be reached.

Obama found himself struggling on the domestic front in October 2013. There was a 16-day shutdown of the federal government, which was caused by a dispute over the federal budget. Republicans especially wanted to defund or otherwise derail Obama's Affordable Care Act. After a deal had been reached to end the shutdown, Obama used his weekly address to express his frustration over the situation and his desire for political reform. "The way business is done in Washington has to change. Now that these clouds of crisis and uncertainty have lifted, we need to focus on what the majority of Americans sent us here to do—grow the economy, create good jobs, strengthen the middle class, lay the foundation for broad-based prosperity, and get our fiscal house in order for the long haul."

The Affordable Care Act continued to come under fire in October after the failed launch of HealthCare.gov, which was meant to help people find health insurance. Extra technical support was brought in to work on the troubled website after users encountered difficulty with it in its early days. The act also seemed to impact the existing insurance policies of many Americans, causing them to lose coverage. According to the Chicago Tribune, Obama insisted that his legislation didn't cause the coverage change, the insurance companies did. He said, "Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or used minor pre-existing conditions to jack up your premiums, or bill you into bankruptcy."

Under mounting pressure, Obama found himself apologizing regarding some health care changes. He told those who lost their insurance plans that "I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me," according to a NBC News report. Obama pledged to find a remedy to this problem. "We are going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this."

Obama had to manage more challenges in the area of foreign relations around this time as well. In October 2013, German chancellor Angela Merkel revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency had been listening in to her cell phone calls.

Speaking at a summit of European leaders, Merkel said that "Spying among friends is never acceptable," according to CNN.com.

In the wake of several controversies, Obama saw his approval rating drop to a new low in November 2013. Only 37 percent of Americans polled by CBS News thought he was doing a good job as president. Another 57 percent disapproved of his handling of the nation.

© 2014 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.

RSS
Spread the word
Search

This website is powered by Spruz