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Obama Leaves Senate

President-elect looks ahead to the White House

By Michael Geheren | null null , null
Sen. Barack Obama talks to his staff in his office in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006. (Photo:©Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images)
Sen. Barack Obama talks to his staff in his office in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006. (Photo:©Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Images)

Keyboards stopped clicking and phones stopped ringing. Lights were turned off and signs were taken down. On the seventh floor of the Hart Senate Building in Washington, DC, the office of Barack Obama, junior Senator from Illinois, has been closed.

On Sunday, President-elect Obama resigned his Senate post to focus on moving into the White House.

"I am stepping down as Senator to prepare for the responsibilities I will assume as our nation's next President," Obama said in a statement. "But I will never forget, and will forever be grateful to, the men and women of this great state [Illinois] who made my life in public service possible."

Obama's decision leaves Illinois with only one senator, Democrat Richard Durbin. But Obama's seat won't be empty long. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will appoint a replacement for Obama, who will finish out the President-elect's six-year Senate term, which ends in 2010.

Because Blagojevich is a Democrat, he will likely pick another Democrat to fill the Senate vacancy. He has said he won't appoint himself, but there are many names being discussed as possible appointees to the Senate.

Emil Jones is the president of the Illinois State Senate and was a mentor to Obama. Tammy Duckworth is a veteran of the Iraq war and the head of Illinois's veterans affairs department. Representatives Danny Davis and Jesse Jackson Jr. are also options.

Blagojevich said that race would not be the primary factor in his decision.

He will choose "the best qualified person, whoever he or she may be," Blagojevich told the Chicago Sun-Times. "[Obama ran] not as the African-American President but as the best-qualified candidate who also happens to be African-American. That's the criteria I'm going to apply."

kid reporter in front of barack obama senate office
Kid Reporter Michael Geheren in front of Barack Obama's Senate office in Washington D.C. (Photo courtesy Michael Geheren)

Senator Durbin agreed with this approach. He said that he understands the desire to replace the nation's only black Senator with another African-American, but that that shouldn't be the "litmus test."

"I would look for the most talented person who could serve this state and who would be likely elected two years from now," Durbin told the Chicago Tribune.

Obama's Ties to the Illinois Community

President-elect Obama is originally from Hawaii, but Illinois has been an important part of his personal and political life.

Obama arrived in the Land of Lincoln more than 20 years ago. He worked as a community organizer helping those in need on the South Side of Chicago. He spent 10 years teaching constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago Law School. In 1997, he ran for a seat in the Illinois State Senate. Obama later ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives but lost that race. Four years later, he ran for U.S. Senate and won, becoming the only African-American in the Senate.

When Obama announced his bid to become President in 2007, he did it on the steps of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. It was the same spot where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "House Divided" speech when he won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 1858.

In his Senate resignation announcement, Obama once again followed Lincoln's example.

"A greater man who spoke to a nation far more divided, Abraham Lincoln said of his home, ‘To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything,' " Obama said. "Today, I feel the same."


Read today’s story and answer the following question.

blog it What are the most important qualities a Senator should have? What should Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich look for when he appoints a Senate replacement for President-elect Barack Obama?

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About the Author

Michael Geheren is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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