BARACK OBAMA – FIRST AFRO PRESIDENT OF AMERICA

Barack Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii on August 4, 1961 to a Kenyan father and an American mother. Obama’s parents, Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham met while studying at the University of Hawaii. Obama spent his early years in Honolulu before moving to Indonesia at the age of six. Obama’s parents separated when he was two years old. His mother later married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian. The family moved to Jakarta in 1967.

After staying for four years in Indonesia, Obama returned to Honolulu to study at the Punahou school. He studied at the Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years before moving to the Columbia University in New York City. Obama graduated from the Columbia University in 1983 with a major in Political Science and a specialization in International Relations.

After his graduation, Obama worked at the Business International Corporation and the New York Public Interest Research Group. In 1985, he moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer. Later, in 1988, Obama joined the Harvard Law School. He went on to become the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from the law school in 1991.

Barack Obama met Michelle Robinson in 1989, whom he married in 1992. Michelle and Barack have two daughters. Obama played several roles professionally between 1993 and 2004. He worked as a lawyer for the law firm, David, Miner, Barnhill & Galland. He also worked as a part-time lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School from 1993 to 2004; he taught constitutional law at the law school. Obama also served as a board member at the Woods Fund of Chicago, a philanthropic organization.

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois senate. He was elected again in 1998 and 2002. In 2000, he lost a primary for the United States House of Representatives. In 2003, Obama was appointed the chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. Obama became a United States Senator in late 2004 to become the fifth Afro-American Senator in history. He secured 70% votes.

In 1991, while being in-charge of a voter registration drive in Chicago, Obama began writing a book of memoirs that was later published in 1995 as Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Obama wrote another book later that was published in 2006. The book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream went on to become a part of the New York Times Best Seller list.

Once elected into the state Senate of Illinois, Obama took deep interest in reforms and policies, making and changing some consequently. He initiated the requirement of mandatorily videotaping interrogations in cases of homicide. He enthusiastically participated in creating the Earned Income Tax Credit program for state, meant for helping people in the low-income groups. He went on to initiate reforms in the fields of healthcare and childcare. An interesting law that came into being because of him was the law to monitor racial profiling. It became mandatory to note the race of the drivers that are detained by the state police.

Following his election into the United States Senate, Obama showed extreme interest in immigration reforms and border security improvements. He became a co-sponsor of the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act; the act was introduced by John McCain, his Republican rival who ran for the United States Presidential post. A year later, Obama also favored another security bill that later became the Secure Fence Act.

Obama, in association with Tom Coburn, brought the Coburn-Obama Transparency Act into being; the act made the government expenditure transparent via a website called the USAspending.gov. Also, in association with the Republican, Richard Lugar, a Lugar-Obama program went on to make additions to the existing Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction concept. In 2007, Obama, in association with Senator Russ Feingold, brought into being the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. He later introduced the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007. Last year in February, he declared that he will be running for the post of the President of the United States. He has showed his dislike to negative campaigning. Obama has been advocating an end to the war in Iraq, a universal health care mechanism and increased energy independence as his most important agendas in his manifesto.

Obama has surprised his critics by raising enormous amount of money through his campaigns. In January this year, his campaign raised 36.8 million US dollars, the highest amount raised ever in the Democratic primaries. In the first six months of his campaign last year, 58 million US dollars were raised, breaking earlier records. Following a series of hate mail sent to Obama, the US Secret Service instated special protection for Obama. “Fired up! Ready to go!” is a cry doing the rounds at Obama’s campaigns. Barack Obama has been voted as 44th president of the USA. He won the election battle against John McCain. He is the first afro-american president. Obama has been dubbed as the most liberal Senator in his political life. In his personal life, he plays basketball and claims to be a good poker player.

During his presidential transition, President-elect Obama announced that he would retain the incumbent Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, in his Cabinet. On February 27, 2009, Obama declared that combat operations would end in Iraq within 18 months. His remarks were made to a group of Marines preparing for deployment to Afghanistan. Obama said, “Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.” The drawdown is scheduled to be completed by August 2010, decreasing troops levels from 142,000 while leaving a transitional force of 35,000 to 50,000 in Iraq until the end of 2011. The plan is to transition the mission of the remaining troops from combat operations to counter-terrorism and the training, equipping, and advising of Iraqi security forces.

The 2009 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to U.S. President Barack Obama “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award on October 9, 2009, citing Obama’s promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a “new climate” in international relations fostered by Obama, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world. Obama is the fourth U.S. President to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, after Theodore Roosevelt (1906) and Woodrow Wilson (1919)—both of whom received the award during their terms—and Jimmy Carter (2002), who received the award 21 years after leaving office.

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AMARTYA SEN – THE INDIAN ECONOMIST

Amartya Kumar Sen, born on 3rd November 1933, is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory and for his interest in the problems of society’s poorest members. Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food.Sen was educated at Presidency College in Calcutta (now Kolkata). He went on to study at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he received a B.A. (1955), an M.A. (1959), and a Ph.D. (1959). He taught economics at a number of universities in India and England, including the Universities of Jadavpur (1956–58) and Delhi (1963–71), the London School of Economics, the University of London (1971–77), and the University of Oxford (1977–88), before moving to Harvard University (1988–98), where he was professor of economics and philosophy. In 1998 he was appointed master of Trinity College, Cambridge—a position he held until 2004, when he returned to Harvard as Lamont University Professor.

Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of the community. Sen, who devoted his career to such issues, was called the “conscience of his profession.” His influential monograph Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970)—which addressed problems such as individual rights, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions—inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. Sen devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. For instance, his theoretical work on inequality provided an explanation for why there are fewer women than men in some poor countries in spite of the fact that more women than men are born and infant mortality is higher among males. Sen claimed that this skewed ratio results from the better health treatment and childhood opportunities afforded boys in those countries.

Sen’s interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, in which three million people perished. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary, Sen later concluded. He believed that there was an adequate food supply in India at the time but that its distribution was hindered because particular groups of people in this case rural laborers lost their jobs and therefore their ability to purchase the
food. In his book Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), Sen revealed that in many cases of famine, food supplies were not significantly reduced. Instead, a number of social and economic factors such as declining wages, unemployment, rising food prices, and poor food-distribution systems led to starvation among certain groups in society.

Sen’s first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen, an Indian writer and scholar, with whom he had two children: Antara, a journalist and publisher, and Nandana, a Bollywood actress. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971. In 1973, he married his second wife, Eva Colorni, who died from stomach cancer quite suddenly in 1985. They had two children, Indrani, a journalist in New York, and Kabir, who teaches music at Shady Hill School.

His present wife, Emma Georgina Rothschild, is an economic historian, an expert on Adam Smith and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. Sen usually spends his winter holidays at his home in Santiniketan in West Bengal, India, where he likes to go on long bike rides, and maintains a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he and Emma spend the spring and long vacations. Asked how he relaxes, he replies: “I read a lot and like arguing with people.”

HONORS & AWARDS

  • He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for his work in welfare economics in 1998.
  • In 1999 he received the Bharat Ratna ‘the highest civilian award in India’ by the President of India. In 1999 he was offered honorary citizenship of Bangladesh from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in recognition of his achievements in winning the Nobel Prize, and given that his family origins were in what has become the modern state of Bangladesh.
  • He received the 2000 Leontief Prize for his outstanding contribution to economic theory from the Global Development and Environment Institute.
  • He was the 351st Commencement Speaker of Harvard University.
  • In 2002 he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
  • Eisenhower Medal, for Leadership and Service USA, 2000.
  • Companion of Honour, UK, 2000. In 2002, he received an honorary degree from the university of Tokyo.
  • In 2003, he was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
  • Life Time Achievement award by Bangkok-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP).
  • In 2009, Sen became a member of the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation’s International Advisory Board to contribute to the organisation’s work in poverty reduction and sustainable development.
  • He was chosen to deliver the Demos Annual Lecture 2010

PUBLICATIONS

  • Choice of Techniques, 1960. Sen, Amartya, An Aspect of Indian Agriculture, Economic Weekly, Vol. 14, 1962.
  • Collective Choice and Social Welfare, 1970, Holden-Day, 1984, Elsevier. Sen, Amartya, On Economic Inequality, New York, Norton, 1973. (Expanded edition with a substantial annexe by James E. Foster and A. Sen, 1997).
  • On Economic Inequality, 1973.
  • Poverty and Famines: an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981a.
  • Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines : An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1982.
  • Sen, Amartya, Food Economics and Entitlements, Helsinki, Wider Working Paper 1, 1986.
  • Sen, Amartya, On Ethics and Economics, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1987.
  • Drèze, Jean and Sen, Amartya, Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989. Hunger and Public Action, jointly edited with Jean Drèze, 1989.
  • Sen, Amartya, “More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing”. New York Review of Books, 1990.
  • Sen, Amartya, Inequality Reexamined, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Nussbaum, Martha, and Sen, Amartya. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity, with Jean Drèze, 1995.
  • Sen, Amartya, Reason Before Identity (The Romanes Lecture for 1998), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Commodities and Capabilities, 1999.
  • Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999.
  • Development as Freedom, 1999. Reason Before Identity, 1999.
  • Freedom, Rationality, and Social Choice: The Arrow Lectures and Other essays, 2000.
  • Sen, Amartya, Rationality and Freedom, Harvard, Harvard Belknap Press, 2002.
  • Rationality and Freedom, 2004.
  • Inequality Reexamined, 2004.
  • The Argumentative Indian, 2005.
  • Sen, Amartya, The Argumentative Indian, London: Allen Lane, 2005.
  • Sen, Amartya, The Three R’s of Reform, Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 40(19): pp. 1971-1974, 2005.
  • Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time), New York, W. W. Norton, 2006.
  • Imperial Illusions: India, Britain, and the wrong lessons. By Amartya Sen.
  • Response by Niall Ferguson. Equality of Capacity by Amartya Sen.
  • The Idea of Justice Harvard University Press & London: Allen Lane,2009.

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HOWARD HUGHES – THE AVIATOR

Howard Hughes’ father, Howard Hughes Sr., made his fortune by designing a drill bit that could drill through hard rock. Before this new bit, oil drillers weren’t able to reach the large pockets of oil lying beneath the hard rock. Howard Hughes Sr. and a colleague established the Sharp-Hughes Tool Company which held the patent for the new drill bit, manufactured the bit, and leased the bit to oil. Though he grew up in a wealthy household, Howard Hughes Jr. had difficulty focusing on school and changed schools often. Rather than sitting in a classroom, Hughes preferred to learn by tinkering with mechanical things. For instance, when his mother forbade him from having a motorcycle, he built one by building a motor and adding it to his bicycle. Hughes was a loner in his youth; with one notable exception, Hughes never really had any friends.

When Hughes was just 16-years old, his doting mother passed away. And then not even two years later, his father also suddenly passed away. Howard Hughes received 75% of his father’s million-dollar estate; the other 25% went to relatives.

Hughes immediately disagreed with his relatives over the running of Hughes Tool Company but being only 18-years old, Hughes could not do anything about it because he would not legally be considered an adult until age 21. Frustrated but determined, Hughes went to court and got a judge to grant him legal adulthood. He then bought out his relatives’ shares of the company. At age 19, Hughes became full owner of the company and also got married (to Ella Rice).
In 1925, Hughes and his wife decided to move to Hollywood and spend some time with Hughes’ uncle, Rupert, who was a screenwriter. Hughes quickly became enchanted with movie making. Hughes jumped right in and filmed Swell Hogan but quickly realized it wasn’t good so he never released it. Learning from his mistakes, Hughes continued making movies. His third, Two Arabian Knights won an Oscar.

With one success under his belt, Hughes wanted to make an epic about aviation and set to work on Hell’s Angels. It became his obsession. His wife, tired of being neglected, divorced him. Hughes continued making films, producing over 25 of them.

In 1932, Hughes had a new obsession — aviation. He formed the Hughes Aircraft Company and bought several airplanes and hired numerous engineers and designers. He wanted a quicker, faster plane. He spent the rest of the 1930s setting new speed records. In 1938, he flew around the world, breaking Wiley Post’s record. Though Hughes was given a ticker-tape parade on his arrival in New York, he was already showing signs of wanting to shun the public spotlight.
In 1944, Hughes won a government contract to design a large, flying boat that could carry both people and supplies to the war in Europe. The “Spruce Goose,” the largest plane ever constructed, was flown successfully in 1947 and then never flown again. Hughes’ company also developed a chain feeder for the machine guns on bombers and later built helicopters.

By the mid-1950s, Hughes’ dislike of being a public figure began to severely affect his life. Though he married actress Jean Peters in 1957, he began to avoid public appearances. He traveled for a bit, then in 1966 he moved to Las Vegas, where he holed himself up in the Desert Inn Hotel. When the hotel threatened to evict him, he purchased the hotel. He also bought several other hotels and property in Las Vegas. For the next several years, hardly a single person saw Hughes. He had become so reclusive that he nearly never left his hotel suite.

In 1970, Hughes’ marriage ended and he left Las Vegas. He moved from one country to another and died in 1976, aboard an airplane, while traveling from Acapulco, Mexico to Houston, Texas. Hughes had become such a hermit in his last years that no one was sure it was really Hughes that had died, so the Treasury Department had to use fingerprints to confirm the death of billionaire Howard Hughes.

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MOTHER TERESA – THE LOVER OF PEACE

Mother Teresa was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in Skopje, Macedonia, on August 26, 1910. Her family was of Albanian descent. At the age of twelve, she felt strongly the call of God. She knew she had to be a missionary to spread the love of Christ. At the age of eighteen she left her parental home in Skopje and joined the Sisters of Loreto, an Irish community of nuns with missions in India. After a few months’ training in Dublin she was sent to India, where on May 24, 1931, she took her initial vows as a nun. From 1931 to 1948 Mother Teresa taught at St. Mary’s High School in Calcutta, but the suffering and poverty she glimpsed outside the convent walls made such a deep impression on her that in 1948 she received permission from her superiors to leave the convent school and devote herself to working among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta. Although she had no funds, she depended on Divine Providence, and started an open-air school for slum children. Soon she was joined by voluntary helpers, and financial support was also forthcoming. This made it possible for her to extend the scope of her work.

On October 7, 1950, Mother Teresa received permission from the Holy See to start her own order, “The Missionaries of Charity”, whose primary task was to love and care for those persons nobody was prepared to look after. In 1965 the Society became an International Religious Family by a decree of Pope Paul VI.

Today the order comprises Active and Contemplative branches of Sisters and Brothers in many countries. In 1963 both the Contemplative branch of the Sisters and the Active branch of the Brothers was founded. In 1979 the Contemplative branch of the Brothers was added, and in 1984 the Priest branch was established.

The Society of Missionaries has spread all over the world, including the former Soviet Union and Eastern European countries. They provide effective help to the poorest of the poor in a number of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and they undertake relief work in the wake of natural catastrophes such as floods, epidemics, and famine, and for refugees. The order also has houses in North America, Europe and Australia, where they take care of the shut-ins, alcoholics, homeless, and AIDS sufferers.

The Missionaries of Charity throughout the world are aided and assisted by Co-Workers who became an official International Association on March 29, 1969. By the 1990s there were over one million Co-Workers in more than 40 countries. Along with the Co-Workers, the lay Missionaries of Charity try to follow Mother Teresa’s spirit and charism in their families.

Mother Teresa’s work has been recognised and acclaimed throughout the world and she has received a number of awards and distinctions, including the Pope John XXIII Peace Prize (1971) and the Nehru Prize for her promotion of international peace and understanding (1972). She also received the Balzan Prize (1979) and the Templeton and Magsaysay awards. She also got Nobel Prize for peace in this year (1979).

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RABINDRANATH TAGORE – THE NOBEL POET OF INDIA

Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941), sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali polymath. As a poet, novelist, musician, and playwright, he reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As author of Gitanjali and its “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse”,in 1913 being the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, Tagore was perhaps the most important literary figure of Bengali literature. He was a mesmerising representative of the Indian culture whose influence and popularity internationally perhaps could only be compared to that of Gandhi, whom Tagore named ‘Mahatma’ out of his deep admiration for him.

A Pirali Brahminfrom Kolkata, Tagore was already writing poems at age eight. At age sixteen, he published his first substantial poetry under the pseudonym Bhanushingho (“Sun Lion”) and wrote his first short stories and dramas in 1877. Tagore denounced the British Raj and supported independence. His efforts endure in his vast canon and in the institution he founded, Visva-Bharati University.

Tagore modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms. His novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays spoke to political and personal topics. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair-Faced), and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World) are his best-known works, and his verse, short stories, and novels were acclaimed for their lyricism, colloquialism, naturalism, and contemplation. Tagore was perhaps the only litterateur who penned anthems of two countries: Bangladesh and India: Amar Shonar Bangla and Jana Gana Mana.

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NELSON MANDELA – THE PEACE MAKER

nelson mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born in Transkei, South Africa on July 18, 1918. His father was Chief Henry Mandela of the Tembu Tribe. Mandela himself was educated at University College of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand and qualified in law in 1942. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and was engaged in resistance against the ruling National Party’s apartheid policies after 1948. He went on trial for treason in 1956-1961 and was acquitted in 1961. One of the world’s most revered statesmen, Nelson Mandela led the struggle to replace South Africa’s apartheid regime with a non-racial democracy. He was inspired from a young age by his own elders’ courage during the wars of resistance and resolved at that time to support the freedom struggle of his people. As a law student Mandela was active in student politics and he joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1943. By 1952 he was leading national anti-apartheid activities, and opened the country’s first black law firm with Oliver Tambo. Throughout the 1950s he was banned, arrested and imprisoned for his activities. In the early 1960s he worked in the underground resistance movement and also travelled abroad. In 1962, shortly after his return to South Africa, he was arrested, tried and sentenced to five years in prison. While in prison he was also charged with sabotage and the Rivonia trial, as it has come to be known, was where Mandela made one of his most famous statements. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” In 1964 he was jailed for life and spent 27 years in prison. In 1985, from prison, he began talks with the apartheid government which evolved into a dialogue and eventually, his release. On his release in 1990, Mandela again moved to the leadership of his people’s liberation struggle. In 1991 he was elected leader of the ANC. In 1994 the country’s first non-racial elections were held – the first time that Mandela himself was able to vote in his own country. He was elected President and served a five year term. Since stepping down as President in 1999, Mandela has become South Africa’s highest-profile ambassador, campaigning in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He was also active in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi. Fondly known in South Africa by his clan name ‘Madiba’, Mr. Mandela remains an inspiration to all those around the world fighting injustice and oppression.

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