I was interested in the first part of this article, but I included the whole thing for anyone interested. Barack Obama: Could he be the first U.S. black president? Updated Mon. Jan. 8 2007 6:39 PM ET Mary Nersessian, CTV.ca News As the jockeying begins in the race for the 2008 U.S. presidency, questions are emerging over whether top Democratic prospect Sen. Barack Obama's blunt admissions about past drug use will be a liability. "Junkie. Pothead. That's where I'd been headed: the final, fatal role of the young would-be black man. ... I got high (to) push questions of who I was out of my mind," Obama wrote in his highly personal memoir of 11 years ago, "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance." Those words were written not long after he graduated from law school and well before the Democratic senator from Illinois was considered a likely presidential candidate. It's too early to say whether the U.S. political darling's revelations of bad choices in high school and college will hurt his chances, more than a year before the primaries and nearly two before the presidential election. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., discusses avian influenza during a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2005. (AP / Dennis Cook) "My sense is, there have been presidents from both parties with varying degrees of admission of illicit substance abuse -- that in many ways it's a non-issue," University of Toronto political science assistant professor Renan Levine, who teaches American politics, told CTV.ca "As far as I know he is pretty forthright about what he has done in his past," he said. When questioned about an admission he had smoked marijuana, Obama replied: "Yes, and I inhaled. That was the point." Obama's answer is a not-so-veiled reference to then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton's comment in 1992 when asked about sampling pot. Clinton said he "didn't inhale." Rumours have also dogged U.S. President George Bush. While he has admitted to abusing alcohol and having an "irresponsible youth," he has sidestepped questions about cocaine use. Obama, who is married to a lawyer and has two children, has not expressed any regrets for his candour. In a preface to the new edition of his memoirs, he says that he would tell the same story today "even if certain passages have proven to be inconvenient politically." Through his book, Obama has also become the first potential presidential candidate to own up to trying cocaine. "Pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it. Not smack, though," he says. Obama-mania Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., left, walks past Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, as he leaves the Senate Chambers after a failed last minute attempt to block Samuel Alito's nomination with a filibuster, Monday, Jan. 30, 2006, in Washington. (AP / Pablo Martinez Monsivais) Though the revelations are sure to come under renewed scrutiny, Obama-mania has exploded across the United States, sparked by publication of his second book, the bestselling "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." Obama first burst onto the national scene as a state legislator, deliverign a knockout keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston. "There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America," he said. The buzz surrounding Obama has continued to only gain momentum. He was the most requested speaker on the 2006 campaign trail, the Christian Science Monitor reports, appearing with candidates in more than 30 states. In December 2006, Obama drew a sold-out crowd of 1,500 Democrats and 160 political reporters when he made his first-ever trip to New Hampshire. His performance won over even the most cynical political pundits -- although Conan O'Brien joked it was because the state had never seen an African-American before. As the governor of the state explained in his opening address: "We had booked the Rolling Stones until we realized that Barack Obama would sell more tickets!" Obama is one of those rare politicians who has that star quality. Pundits say he is well-known enough to have recognition, but not so famous that people already dislike him. He's showed up on the cover of Men's Vogue, popped up on "Monday Night Football," and remained a favourite of Oprah Winfrey. Oprah has voiced her enthusiasm, should he run for president. So far, Obama has demurred. He says a decision is forthcoming in the new year. But as the field widens, Obama is making a name for himself as Sen. Hillary Clinton's main political opponent. Obama vs. Clinton Political activist and entertainer Bono, left, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., right, applaud President Bush, not shown, at the National Prayer Breakfast, Thursday, Feb. 2, 2006, in Washington. (AP / Ron Edmonds) Though Obama has the fans and the media attention, Clinton has the war chest, the backing, and the brand recognition. She ended 2006 with nearly US$14 million in her campaign war chest while other potential White House hopefuls with double-digit millions include Sen. John F. Kerry with a campaign war chest of about $13 million. In the meantime, while Obama's revelations were not an issue during his Senate campaign, the 45-year-old is getting new attention with speculation he could be the nation's first African-American president. So how does an African-American man whose name -- Barack Hussein Obama -- evokes two of the United States' most hated enemies provoke this kind of praise at such an early stage in the campaign? Levine believes Obama could attract support simply by being an alternative to Hillary Clinton, who is the widely perceived front-runner. "A lot of people either plain don't like Hillary or feel Hillary is unelectable that there's too many people who will never vote for Hillary Clinton -- as a result her nomination may help the Republicans hold onto the presidency," he said. The fact that he is black also sets him apart from the pack, said Levine. "Right now, the Democrats have a lot of support coming from non-white males and he is the child of an immigrant. A lot of things about Obama's background and demographics make him appealing and desirable from a marketing perspective," he said. Obama is also desirable "simply from the perspective that he would be a novelty. Research has shown voters are attracted to the idea of supporting someone who is a launching a historic campaign," he said. Different shades of black Barack Obama, U.S. Senator for Illinois, right, is escorted by former Robben Island prisoner Achmat Kathrada, left, at Robben Island prison in Cape Town, South Africa, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2006. (AP / Obed Zilwa) While his background defies the pigeonhole, some say his toughest sell may be to fellow African-Americans. "He is black in the sense his father was an immigrant to the U.S. from Kenya, but culturally he doesn't quite fit the non-immigrant African-American community," Levine said. "While certainly by looking at his skin, white people will say 'This person is a black man,' there is some doubt that rank-and-file African American voters might take a look at him and say 'He's black, but he's not quite like me.'" In contrast to the enthusiastic support he has received from white Americans, support from black people has been lukewarm. Many have said while they share skin colour, they do not have a common culture. "Obama did not -- does not -- share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves," wrote African-American newspaper columnist Stanley Crouch in a recent column entitled "Barack Obama -- Not Black Like Me." Crouch says Obama does not share the experience of the painful legacy of slavery but that he is more representative of the uplifting immigrant experience. "While he has experienced some light versions of typical racial stereotypes, he cannot claim those problems as his own -- nor has he lived the life of a black American," Crouch wrote in his New York Daily News column. "If we then end up with him as our first black president, he will have come into the White House through a side door -- which might, at this point, be the only one that's open." Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961 to a Kenyan father he has described as "black as pitch" and a woman from Kansas who was as "white as snow." Obama's father, who grew up in Kenya herding goats, gained a scholarship to study in Hawaii. It was there that he met and married Obama's mother, who had moved to Honolulu with her parents. U.S. Senator Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, publicly visit a clinic where they took AIDS tests Saturday Aug. 26 2006 in Kenya, where fear and social stigmas have slowed progress in fighting the disease. (AP / Sayyid Azim) While Obama was young, his father got the opportunity to study at Harvard, there wasn't the money for the family to travel with him. He later returned to Kenya by himself when Obama was just 2, and the couple eventually divorced. When the junior Barack was six, his mother married an Indonesian oil manager and the family moved to Jakarta. Obama lived there for four years but later moved to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. He went on to study political science at New York's Columbia University and later moved to Chicago where he spent three years as a community organizer. In his first book, he writes about his tortured journey trying to come to terms with his identity. "We were always playing on the white man's court . . . by the white man's rules," he writes. "If the principal, or the coach, or a teacher . . . wanted to spit in your face, he could, because he had the power and you didn't. . . . The only thing you could choose was withdrawal into a smaller and smaller coil of rage. "And the final irony: should you refuse this defeat and lash out at your captors . . . they would have a name for that too. Paranoid. Militant." In 1998, he left Chicago to attend Harvard Law School, where he became the first African-American president or editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. After Harvard, Obama returned to Chicago. After a few years practicing civil rights and teaching law, he was elected to the Illinois state senate, where he served until winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2004. But whether the electorate will welcome the African American with a less-than-conventional name remains to be seen. Obama, Osama, Dalai Lama? Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and rapper Ludacris leave the senator's Chicago offices after a meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2006.(AP / Charles Rex Arbogast) During 9/11, he was warned his name would never let him get ahead in politics. "When I first started to work in public life... people would ask: 'Hey brother, what's with your name? You called Alabama or Yo' Mama?'" he has said. As for his middle name, which means "little beautiful one" in Arabic, he dismisses, the senator says it won't make a difference. As he puts it: "The American people don't care about middle names." Indeed, it's a measure of how times have changed that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper recently rhymed his name to that of the Dalai Lama, as opposed to Osama. But is his compelling story enough to get sway the support of the electorate? Can he raise enough cash for his campaign? If he overcomes above the challenges that will come his way, Barack Hussein Obama may indeed succeed George W. Bush to become the next president of the United States. And even if he chooses not to run this time around, he has time on his side. "He is relatively young, so if we're not talking about 2008 maybe we are talking 2012, or realistically another decade or two beyond that," Levine said. "We may not be talking about Barack Obama presidential campaign in 2008, we may be talking about him as a vice-presidential nominee, we may even be talking about him as the next candidate waiting in the wings for 2012 or 2016."