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Law Prof to Deliver Democratic Keynote Address

WASHINGTON, July 14 (AP) --

The man who could become the third black senator since Reconstruction -- Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama -- will deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.

Obama, a law professor and state senator, will speak on July 27, the second night of the convention, with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Obama will talk about the future of America that a Democratic administration would provide, along with the need to make jobs, families and communities top priorities in the lives of Americans.

"Barack is an optimistic voice for America and a leader who knows that together we can build an America that is stronger at home and respected in the world," Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said in a statement.

The announcement from the Kerry campaign came on the same day that the Democrat launched $2 million worth of ads for television, radio and newspapers targeting black voters. Democrats handily won the black vote in 2000 by a 9-to-1 margin, and the party and Kerry campaign want to boost that turnout this November.

Obama's days as a relative unknown outside of Illinois are fading. He scored a decisive victory in the state's primary over state comptroller Dan Hynes and he had a comfortable lead in statewide polls before his Republican opponent abandoned the race. Jack Ryan dropped out last month over embarrassing allegations in his divorce papers that he took his wife to sex clubs before they split up.

The GOP's top choices have refused to run, sending Republicans scrambling to line up opposition. One potential candidate is former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka, who met with Republican officials Tuesday. GOP leaders say Ditka, who has never run for office, could hold his own against Obama because of his regular-guy appeal and name recognition. As of Tuesday night, Ditka had not made up his mind.

Obama has widespread appeal and a compelling story: His father was a member of Kenya's Luo tribe, born on the shores of Lake Victoria. He met Obama's mother, who was white, when both were students at the University of Hawaii.

When Obama was 2, his father left the family, returning to Kenya, where he eventually became a senior economist in the Ministry of Finance.

Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York, and received his law degree from Harvard Law School. He became the first black president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

He worked as a community organizer in New York and Chicago on job-training programs and other projects, and as a civil rights lawyer. He is now a senior instructor in constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.

The four-day convention takes place in Boston, starting July 26