Friday, October 17, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama
Future President of the United States
Barack Obama (born August 4, 1961) is a U.S. Senator from Illinois. He is a member of the main Democratic Party. He has received international media coverage for his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, delivered while he was still an Illinois state senator.

As a senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago law school, Obama won the open Senate seat by defeating former ambassador Alan Keyes. He is the only African American who is currently serving in the U.S. Senate, and the fifth in the entire United States history and the third since Reconstruction. The 2004 U.S. Senate election in Illinois made history as the first Senate election to feature black nominees from both major parties. Obama won the election in a landslide, with 70% of the vote to Keyes' 27%. He is junior senator to Richard Durbin.

Obama is married to Michelle Obama, a Chicago native. They have two daughters: Malia Ann (born in 1999) and Natasha (born 2001).

His Early life
Barack Obama was born at the Queen's Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii to Harvard-educated economist Barack Obama, Sr., a native of Kenya, and S. Ann Dunham, of Kansas. Ms. Dunham is a distant descendant of Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederate States of America; she is also part Cherokee Indian.

At the time of Obama's birth, both his parents were students at the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. "Barack" means "blessed" in Swahili.

Of his years in Hawaii, Obama has written, "The irony is that my decision to work in politics, and to pursue such a career in a big Mainland city, in some sense grows out of my Hawaiian upbringing, and the ideal that Hawaii still represents in my mind."
When Obama was two years old, his parents divorced. His father eventually returned to Kenya, and he saw his son only once more before his death in 1982. Ann Obama married another East-West Center student from Indonesia. The family then moved to Jakarta, where Obama's half-sister Maya was born (Obama has other half-siblings from his father's later marriages). When Obama was ten he returned to Hawaii under the care of his grandparents, and later his mother, for the better educational opportunities. He was enrolled in the fifth grade at Punahou School, a prestigious academy that once taught the Hawaiian royal family. He graduated with honors.

His College experience and career
Upon finishing high school, Obama studied for two years at Occidental College in California, before transferring to Columbia University in New York City. There he majored in political science, with a specialization in international relations. Upon graduation, he moved to Chicago, where he took up community organizing in the Altgeld Gardens housing project on the city's South Side. While in Chicago, he joined the Trinity United Church of Christ.

He left Chicago for three years to study law at Harvard University, where he was elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated Magna Cum Laude. While working one summer at a corporate law firm in 1989, Obama met Michelle Robinson, whom he married in 1992. Robinson is also a graduate of Harvard Law.

While in Chicago as a community organizer once again, Obama organized an aggressive voter registration effort that aided in the election of President Bill Clinton and Senator Carol Moseley Braun. The campaign registered over 100,000 voters. Soon after, his talents earned him a position at a local civil rights law firm, and he became a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago, where he served as a professor until his election to the U.S. Senate.

Barack Obama and Politics
Illinois General Assembly
In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate from the south side neighborhood of Hyde Park, in Chicago. He served as chairman of the Public Health and Welfare Committee when the Democrats regained control of the chamber. The Chicago Tribune called him "one of the General Assembly's most impressive members."

Regarded as a staunch liberal during his tenure in the legislature, he helped to author a state Earned Income Tax Credit which provided benefits to the working poor. He also worked for legislation that would cover residents who could not afford health insurance. Speaking up for leading gay and lesbian advocacy groups, he successfully helped pass bills to increase funding for AIDS prevention and care programs.

In 2000, he ran unsuccessfully in the Democratic primary for Illinois' 1st Congressional district against incumbent Representative Bobby Rush.

After the loss, Obama rededicated his efforts to the state Senate. He authored one of the most progressive death penalty reform laws in the nation, under the guidance of his mentor, former U.S. Senator Paul Simon. He also pushed through legislation that would force insurance companies to cover routine mammograms.

His United States Senate campaign
In 2004, Obama decided to run for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Peter Fitzgerald. In the Democratic primary, he trailed business tycoon Blair Hull and Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. However, Hull was soon embroiled by allegations of domestic abuse. As Obama's name recognition rose, voters took a liking to the bright, charismatic senator. He won decisively in the March primary, dispatching the other six candidates easily, and winning more than 50 percent of the vote.

Entering the U.S. Senate campaign, Obama had become a national Democratic star. He squared off against former Goldman Sachs partner and teacher Jack Ryan, the winner of the Republican primary. Ryan trailed Obama in the polls, and Obama opened up a twenty point lead after the media brought attention to the fact that Ryan had assigned an aide to stalk Obama. However, during the campaign, a California court ruling opened custody files from Ryan's divorce from actress Jeri Ryan, in which she alleged that he had brought her without her knowledge to sex clubs, intending for her to have sex with him in public. The files, which were part of the custody proceedings regarding the Ryans' young son, were opened as a result of a lawsuit brought by the Chicago Tribune and WLS-TV, a local ABC affiliate. Ryan had insisted that there was nothing damaging in the files, and many Republican leaders openly questioned Ryan's integrity following the release. Ryan was forced to leave the race on June 25, 2004, leaving Obama without an opponent.

Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka had considered running as a Republican to replace Ryan, but opted not to because of family and business considerations. After many more candidates turned down the Illinois GOP, Republican state Chairwoman Judy Baar Topinka announced two possible replacements: Alan Keyes, a former ambassador residing in Maryland, and Andrea Barthwell, a DEA official. After much deliberation, Keyes was chosen, and he officially accepted the nomination on August 8. He had gained much attention as a conservative firebrand in his unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 1996 and 2000. This was widely viewed as a victory for the more conservative wing of the party, and a loss for the more moderate Topinka.

Keyes, a black conservative Republican, had an uphill battle, as Obama had high popularity across the state and Keyes had no ties to Illinois politics. During the time when he had no opponent, Obama campaigned across more conservative downstate areas that ordinarily served as the base for the Republican nominee. A Marylander, Keyes had established legal residency in Illinois with the nomination, the only requirement to run for office. The Chicago Tribune sarcastically greeted Keyes by editorializing: "Mr. Keyes may have noticed a large body of water as he flew into O'Hare. That is called Lake Michigan."

Keyes's previous comments about U.S. Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton's run for Senate in New York, ("I deeply resent the destruction of federalism represented by Hillary Clinton's willingness to go into a state she doesn't even live in and pretend to represent people there, so I certainly wouldn't imitate it.") led many to call Keyes hypocritical. Keyes often rebutted this by pointing out that he was invited to run for the position in Illinois, whereas he claimed Clinton was not.

After a campaign in which Keyes called Obama's position on abortion "the slave-holder's position" and also claimed that Jesus would not vote for Obama, Obama won handily in the general election. Obama received 70% of the popular vote, to Keyes' 27%.

Keynote address
Obama was chosen to deliver a keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, and became the third African American to do so. (The first was Barbara Jordan, at the 1976 Democratic National Convention, and the second was Harold Ford, Jr. at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.)

His speech outlined his own family's pursuit of the American Dream, and his belief in a 'generous America'. His maternal grandfather, after serving in World War II, was the beneficiary of the New Deal's FHA and GI Bill and had high hopes for their daughter, because, as Obama said, "in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential". But he charged that "we have more work to do" for people who are not able to realize the American Dream, maintaining that self responsibility is an important component and people "don't expect government to solve all their problems".

He criticized the Bush administration for not supporting troops in Iraq. He spoke of an enlisted Marine named Shamus from East Moline, asking, "Are we serving Shamus as well as he was serving us?" He continued:

When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Finally he spoke for national unity: "Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America." Perhaps the most often quoted sound bite followed: "We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States."

The address was generally regarded as a great success, thrusting Obama into the national spotlight (similar to New York Governor Mario Cuomo's address at the 1984 DNC).

Senate career
Obama was sworn in as a Senator on January 5, 2005. He ranked 99th out of 100 Senators in terms of official seniority (greater seniority brings greater privileges in the Senate), ranking ahead of only new Democratic Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado. In his first few months in office, Obama drew praise by his perceived attempts to avoid the limelight and devote large amounts of effort to being a Senator; a Washington Post article spread an anecdote of Obama refusing an upgrade to first-class on a flight home. In March of 2005, Obama announced that he was forming his own PAC, a move not usually undertaken until several years into a politician's career.

In late March 2005, Obama announced his first proposed Senate bill, the Higher Education Opportunity through Pell Grant Expansion Act of 2005 (HOPE Act), which aims to raise the maximum amount of Pell Grant awards to help assist American college students with paying for their tuition. Obama announced the bill at the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and said, "Everywhere I go, I hear the same story: 'We work hard, we pay our bills, we put away savings, but we just don't know if it's going to be enough when that tuition bill comes.'"

The April 18, 2005 issue of TIME Magazine listed the 100 most influential people in the world. Obama was included on the list under the section of 'Leaders and Revolutionaries' for his high-profile entrance to federal politics and his popularity within the Democratic Party.

It is my expectation that Barack Obama will be elected on Nov. 4, 2008 as President of the United States and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of America.

Monday, October 13, 2008

John E. Chevigny
US Marine Corps
John Edward 'Jack' Chevigny (born August 14, 1906 - died February 19, 1945) was a star player for Coach Knute Rockne's Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the 1920s and later head football coach at the University of Texas.

Part of the great legend of Notre Dame football was that Chevigny scored the winning touchdown against Army after Knute Rockne’s famous “Win One for the Gipper” halftime speech, and that Chevigny said "That’s one for the Gipper," as he crossed the goal with the winning score. Knute Rockne had related the details in an autobiography published in Collier's magazine in 1930. Actually, Chevigny scored the tying touchdown against Army, to even the score 6-6, and Johnny O'Brien ran for the 12-6 game winner, although both players were inspired by Rockne's speech.

Chevigny played for Notre Dame from 1926-1928 and later was an assistant coach under Rockne. After Rockne's death in 1931, the Hammond, Indiana native left Notre Dame and coached the Chicago Cardinals of the NFL to a 2-6-2 record in 1932. He left to become head coach at St. Edwards University (a sister school of Notre Dame) in Austin, Texas. So, when the University of Texas began looking for a new coach in 1934, Chevigny was conveniently in the same city.

Chevigny’s greatest moment came in just the second game of his career, when he directed a 7-6 victory over his alma mater, Notre Dame. The team finished the season at 7-2-1. His 1935 team didn't fare as well and
Chevigny finished his Texas coaching career with a 13-14-2 record in three seasons.
Chevigny died as a United States Marine Corps first lieutenant in the battle of Iwo Jima during World War II. Another legend surrounding Chevigny is that, after the 1934 victory, he had been presented a fountain pen with the inscription "To Jack Chevigny, a Notre Dame boy who beat Notre Dame," and that on September 2, 1945, the pen was discovered in the hands of one of the Japanese envoys on the U.S.S. Missouri; and that the inscription was changed to read, "To Jack Chevigny, a Notre Dame boy who gave his life for his country in the spirit of old Notre Dame."
Lt. Chevigny had lost the pen on the volcanic ash beach of Iwo Jima. An American naval officer notices the writing on the pen as the envoy prepares to sign the surrender document. Identifying its origin, the navy officer seizes the pen and examines it. Recognizing Jack Chevigny's saga as one of not only personal significance, but of national interest, the officer decided the pen should be returned to the Chevigny family, but with a new inscription - one befitting Jack's sacrifice. Later, the gold pen was returned to Jack's sister with a second engraving. "To Jack Chevigny, a Notre Dame boy who gave his life for his country in the spirit of Notre Dame."

The legend, which surfaced in conjunction with the 1945 anniversary of the 1928 game, has been a part of Notre Dame lore ever since.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Columbus Day
Mon. Oct. 13
Many countries in the New World and elsewhere celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, which occurred on October 12, 1492 in the Julian calendar and October 21, 1492 in the modern Gregorian calendar, as an official holiday. The day is celebrated as Columbus Day in the United States, as Día de la Raza (Day of the Race) in many countries in Latin America, as Día de las Culturas (Day of the Cultures) in Costa Rica, as Discovery Day in The Bahamas and Colombia, as Día de la Hispanidad (Hispanic Day) and National Day in Spain, and as Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) in Venezuela.

Columbus' arrival in the Americas
Columbus celebrations commemorate the Genoese explorer's first expedition across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492. Columbus, on commission by the Spanish monarchy, was hoping to find a new naval route to India and the other nations of the East, but instead found the American continent which was virtually unknown to Europeans at the time. Columbus's sailor Rodrigo de Triana was the first on the voyage to spot land in the New World; he found the island the natives called Guanahani at approximately 2:00 AM on October 12, 1492. The exact location of this island is unknown, though it was somewhere in the Bahamas. Columbus's expedition launched the first large-scale European colonization of the Americas.

United States observance
The first Columbus Day celebration was held in 1792, when New York City celebrated the 300th anniversary of his landing in the New World. In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called upon the people of the United States to celebrate Columbus Day on the 400th anniversary of the event.

Some Italian-Americans observe Columbus Day as a celebration of their heritage, the first occasion being in New York City on October 12, 1866. Columbus Day was popularized as a holiday in the United States by a lawyer, a son of Genoese immigrants who came to California. During the 1850s, Genoese immigrants settled and built ranches along the Sierra Nevada foothills. As the gold ran out, these skilled "Cal-Italians", from the Apennines, were able to prosper as self-sufficient farmers in the Mediterranean climate of Northern California. San Francisco has the second oldest Columbus Day celebration, with Italians having commemorated it there since 1869.

This lawyer then moved to Colorado, which had a population of Genoese miners, and where, in 1907, the first state-wide celebration was held. In 1934, at the behest of the Knights of Columbus (a Catholic fraternal service organization named for the voyager), Congress and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set aside Columbus Day, October 12, as a Federal holiday (36 USC 107, ch. 184, 48 Stat. 657).

Since 1971, the holiday has been commemorated in the U.S. on the second Monday in October, the same day as Thanksgiving in neighboring Canada. It is generally observed today by banks, the bond market, the US Postal Service and other federal agencies, most state government offices, and many school districts; however, most businesses and stock exchanges remain open.

States and city observations

The city of Berkeley celebrates Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day every year with a pow wow and Indian market.

The Columbus Day parade in Denver has been protested by American Indian groups and their supporters for nearly two decades. Denver has the longest running parade in the United States.

Hawaii does not officially honor Columbus day and instead celebrates Discoverer's Day on the same day, i.e., on the second Monday of each October. While many in Hawaii still celebrate the life of Columbus on Columbus Day, the alternative holiday also honors James Cook, the British navigator that became the first person to record the coordinates of the Hawaiian Islands and share with the world the existence of the ancient Hawaiian people and society. Some people interpret the holiday as a celebration of all discoveries relative to the ancient and modern societies of Hawaii. Neither Columbus Day nor Discoverer's Day is regarded as a holiday by State government; state, city and county government offices and schools are open for business on Columbus Day, while Federal government offices are closed.

Many Native Hawaiians decry the celebration of both Columbus and Cook, known to have committed acts of violent subjugation of native people. Discoverer's Day is a day of protest for some advocacy groups. A popular protest site is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace and the Chancery building of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. Such advocacy groups have been commemorating the Discoverer's Day holiday as their own alternative, Indigenous Peoples Day. The week is called Indigenous Peoples Week.

The city of Boston, which has a large Italian population, marks the occasion on the Sunday before Columbus Day with a parade through the city that alternates each year between East Boston and the North End.

New York
In New York State, Columbus Day is a holiday, as government offices and public schools are closed.

Columbus Day is not a legal holiday in Nevada, but it is a day of observance. Schools and state, city and county government offices are open for business on Columbus Day.

South Dakota
In the state of South Dakota, the day is officially a state holiday known as "Native American Day", not Columbus Day.

Día de la Raza
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The date of Columbus' arrival in the Americas is celebrated in many countries in Latin America, although not in Brazil, (and in some Latino communities in the United States) as the Día de la Raza ("day of the race"), commemorating the first encounters of Europe and Native Americans. The day was first celebrated in Argentina in 1917, Venezuela in 1921, Chile in 1923, and Mexico in 1928. The day was also celebrated under this title in Spain until 1957, when it was changed to the Día de la Hispanidad ("Hispanic Day"), and in Venezuela until 2002, when it was changed to the Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance).

Venezuelan observance
Between 1921 and 2002, Venezuela had celebrated Día de la Raza along with many other Latin American nations. The holiday was officially established in 1921 under President Juan Vicente Gómez. In 2002, under president Hugo Chávez, the name was changed to Día de la Resistencia Indígena (Day of Indigenous Resistance) to commemorate the Indigenous people's resistance to European settlement. On the 2004 Day of Indigenous Resistance, a activists toppled a statue of Columbus in Caracas. The pro-Chávez, left-wing website Aporrea wrote: "Just like the statue of Saddam in Baghdad, that of Columbus the tyrant also fell this
October 12, 2004 in Caracas."The famous toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue had occurred the previous year.

Opposition to Columbus Day
In A People's History of the United States, American historian Howard Zinn discusses the cruelty Columbus inflicted upon Native Americans, which Zinn says was comparable to the genocidal acts of World War II. Zinn maintains Columbus was a religious fanatic with an obsession of eliminating non-Christians, by means of murder, conversion, or at the very least, enslavement. He claims that Columbus was in search of personal wealth and fame, and was willing to step over others or even kill them to achieve it, and that Columbus may have used more force than he admitted to his superiors. However, some assume that Columbus' subordinates were more responsible for the vast majority of the carnage carried out. Columbus himself claimed that he warned his men against taking advantage of the natives, as he had planned to eventually convert them to Christianity. A Spanish priest who traveled to Hispaniola wrote that he was appalled to witness dehumanizing acts of cruelty being inflicted on the Indians, such as torture used to subjugate their leaders.[citation needed}. Many of the natives ended up dying from starvation, disease, or simply being overworked.

Opposition to the holiday cites this cruelty committed by those under Columbus' leadership and that of many of the following European colonists. Columbus directly brought about the demise of many Taino (Arawak) Indians on the island of Hispaniola,[citation needed and the arrival of the Europeans indirectly caused the decline in population of many indigenous peoples by introducing diseases previously unknown in the New World. An estimated 85% of the Native American population was wiped out within 150 years of Columbus' arrival in America, due largely to diseases such as smallpox that spread among Native populations.[citation needed}Additionally, ensuing war and the appropriation of land and material wealth by European colonists also contributed to the decline of the indigenous populations in the Americas.

In the summer of 1990, 350 Native Americans, representatives from all over the hemisphere, met in Quito, Ecuador, at the first Intercontinental Gathering of Indigenous People in the Americas, to mobilize against the quincentennial celebration of Columbus Day. The following summer, in Davis, California, more than a hundred Native Americans gathered for a follow-up meeting to the Quito conference. They declared October 12, 1992, International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People. The largest ecumenical body in the United States, the National Council of Churches, called on Christians to refrain from celebrating the Columbus quincentennial, saying, "What represented newness of freedom, hope, and opportunity for some was the occasion for oppression, degradation and genocide for others."

Michael Berliner, of the Ayn Rand Institute, has defended celebration of Columbus Day, hailing the European conquest of North America and describing the indigenous culture as “a way of life dominated by fatalism, passivity, and magic.” Western civilization, Berliner claimed, brought “reason, science, self-reliance, individualism, ambition, and productive achievement” to a people who were based in “primitivism, mysticism, and collectivism”, and to a land that was “sparsely inhabited, unused, and underdeveloped.