Hailed as a young Democratic star, he electrified the 2004 Democratic convention with his keynote address. He became (Feb., 2007) a candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, ultimately securing a delegate majority after a prolonged primary contest with Senator Hillary Clinton. The first African American to be nominated for president by a major U.S. political party, he chose Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate, and they subsequently defeated the Republican ticket of Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. Obama, who led the Democratic party to its largest national victory since the election of Jimmy Carter as president, became the first African American to be elected to the office.
Obama's selections for his cabinet and other high-level government posts were notable both because they were announced earlier than had been typical (in large part because economic difficulties and overseas conflicts necessitated having a cabinet in place as soon as possible) and because the persons he selected were prominent and highly experienced. His government was initially most strongly focused on measures intended to revive the U.S. financial system and economy, reeling from the most serious economic downtown since the early 1980s and the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. The measures, including a massive stimulus package and rescue plans for the financial and automobile industries and some homeowners, were projected to result in some of the largest U.S. budget deficits, as a proportion of GDP, since World War II; the 2009 deficit was $1.4 trillion. He subsequently sought congressional passage of a health-care insurance overhaul, which quickly surpassed other issues to become the most politically contentious of his first year as president.
In foreign policy, Obama broke with many aspects of the Bush administration's "war on terror," calling for a withdrawal of most troops from Iraq by Aug., 2010, the closure of the Guantánamo prison camp within a year (a goal that proved unachievable), the end of the use of interrogation methods denounced by many as torture, and a renewed focus on fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. His administration also suspended plans for deploying a ballistic missile defense system in E Europe, focusing instead on defending against shorter range missiles based in Iran. Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oct., 2009, for his efforts to "strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
See his Dreams from My Father (1995) and The Audacity of Hope (2006). See also biography by D. Mendell (2007); R. Wolffe, Renegade: The Making of a President (2009); K. H. Jamieson, ed., Electing the President, 2008: The Insiders' View (2009).
The Omizu-okuri (Water Carrying) Festival is an annual event that dates back more than 1,200 years. Local tourist attractions include the Myotsu-ji Temple and the surrounding Karesansui Garden. The Wakasa Historical and Folk Museum is housed in a large, modern facility.
Senator Obama has since thanked the town for their gifts and support, saying "I look forward to a future marked by the continued friendship of our two great nations and a shared commitment to a better, freer world".
There are a number of Japanese with the surname Obama, meaning “small beach” in Japanese, though the American Senator is of Kenyan Luo heritage; it is not uncommon for Japanese and East African names to sound alike.