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Obama fundraiser draws young South Asian professionals


San Francisco : At a kick-off event for US Senator Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, the local chapter of South Asians for Obama (SAFO) raised over $1,200 as contribution last week.

"Most of Obama's fundraising has been done through small, $20 donations from young people," SAFO steering committee chair Anhoni Patel said. "It has really infused the campaign with younger energy," he said.

SAFO is a grassroots movement that seeks to mobilise the support of the South Asian American community to help elect Senator Obama as the next US president.

"In the South Asian community, the response has been very strong. We've seen lots of excitement from a variety of people in their 20s and 30s, and many green card-holders," Patel was quoted as saying by India West, an ethnic newspaper.

Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 US presidential election on Feb 10 in Springfield, Illinois. Opinion polls rank him as the second or third most popular choice among Democratic voters for their party's nomination. In recent campaign appearances, Obama has emphasised the Iraq war and universal health care as leading issues.

"He wants to change what the American looks like and he wants to bring respect to what it means to be American," Patel said.

"As a multinational, he knows about diversity and encompasses it. He grew up in Indonesia and has an African father. We are literally Indian American, and he's literally African American. Whether it's unconsciously or consciously, it speaks to people, and that's a beautiful thing," an excited Patel added.

According to the US Senate Historical Office, Obama, a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, is the fifth African American Senator in US history and the only African American currently serving in the US Senate.

SAFO organising committee chair Vikas Gupta compared Obama's low-key approach favourably to his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's.

"Hillary is too political for me," said Anil Babbar, member of the group's communication committee.

"She's really targeting the Indian American community, even going to the US IIT alumni meet, but I think Obama will appeal more to the younger age group," he added.