[ 2008-11-05 14:33 ]
Cultural and Political image
With his Kenyan father and white American mother, his upbringing in Honolulu and Jakarta, and his Ivy League education, Obama's early life experiences differ markedly from those of African American politicians who launched their careers in the 1960s through participation in the civil rights movement. Expressing puzzlement over questions about whether he is "black enough," Obama told an August 2007 meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists that the debate is not about his physical appearance or his record on issues of concern to black voters. Obama said that "we're still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong."
Echoing the inaugural address of John F. Kennedy, Obama acknowledged his youthful image in an October 2007 campaign speech, saying: "I wouldn't be here if, time and again, the torch had not been passed to a new generation."
Many commentators mentioned Obama's international appeal as a defining factor for his public image. Not only did several polls show strong support for him in other countries, but Obama also established close relationships with prominent foreign politicians and elected officials even before his presidential candidacy, notably with then current British Prime minister Tony Blair, whom he met in London in 2005, with Italy's Democratic Party leader Walter Veltroni, who visited Obama's Senate office in 2005, and with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who also visited him in Washington in 2006.