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Hughes, Chris (b. 1983), and Sean Eldridge (b. 1986)  
 
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Chris Hughes has been a creative force in two enormously successful on-line ventures, the social networking site Facebook and the web site My.BarackObama.com, which was key to the candidate's victory in the 2008 presidential election. In each case, his focus was on the power of community and on facilitating communication among members of groups.

He and his partner Sean Eldridge have lent their own voices and resources to the cause of glbtq rights, particularly marriage equality.

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Chris Hughes was born November 26, 1983 in Hickory, North Carolina, a small, conservative town in the western part of the state. Not entirely comfortable in his hometown, he longed to go away to prep school.

Given his family's modest income, achieving that dream seemed unlikely; nevertheless, as a high school freshman Hughes, unbeknownst to his parents, applied to a number of boarding schools.

The prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts not only accepted him but also offered financial aid that would allow him to attend.

Hughes enrolled at the Phillips Academy as a sophomore. The milieu was so different from Hickory that, Hughes told Amy Schatz of the Wall Street Journal, the transition "was the hardest year of my life."

Despite the initial culture shock, Hughes blossomed at the school. He excelled academically and also discovered an interest in politics. He became president of the Young Democrats organization and was a campaign volunteer for Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election.

While he was at Phillips, Hughes recognized that he was gay. "I went to boarding school Southern, religious, and straight, and I left boarding school not being at all religious and not being straight," he stated to Ellen McGirt of Fast Company.

Because of his exceptional performance in high school Hughes earned a scholarship to Harvard in 2002. During his sophomore year he roomed with Mark Zuckerberg, a student who was working with another dorm-mate, Dustin Moskovitz, to create an on-line version of Harvard's "facebook," a publication with photos and basic information about students to help them meet each other. Zuckerberg invited Hughes to join the project.

Zuckerberg and Moskovitz were computer geeks proficient in the technical aspects of the process, such as writing software codes. Hughes's emphasis was on the users: how they would want to connect with others, how they could share information, how their concerns about privacy could be addressed.

Hughes's input earned him the nickname "the Empath"—perhaps slightly derisive among die-hard techies but also reflective of what would be his crucial role in the development of Facebook.

In the summer of 2004 Hughes, Zuckerberg, and Moskovitz went to California, seeking venture capital for the fledgling Facebook site.

Zuckerberg and Moskovitz dropped out of college and relocated to Palo Alto to work on Facebook full-time, but Hughes continued his education. A major in French history and literature, he studied for a semester in Paris and graduated magna cum laude in 2006.

Hughes, who had continued his association with the project on a part-time basis during the academic year and spent his summers working on it in California, then moved to Palo Alto for a full-time job with Facebook. Among the projects on which he worked was the establishment of pages for candidates running for election in 2006.

The freshman United States senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, was not on the ballot that year; nevertheless, he and his staff recognized the value of the Internet tool.

Hughes helped Obama set up a site at that time, and shortly thereafter, in January 2007, he was asked to take on a new role in the media operation of Obama's campaign for President of the United States.

Hughes's Facebook partners were stunned when he announced his departure from the burgeoning enterprise so that he could work for Obama. Hughes did not, however, completely sever his ties with the company, retaining a minimal ownership share—reportedly about a mere one percent—but, because of the company's extraordinary success, enough to make him financially secure for life and able to pursue other projects.

[Hughes has described David Fincher's film about the founding of Facebook, The Social Network (2010), as a good story but has emphasized that Aaron Sorkin's screenplay is fiction rather than fact. The film, in which Hughes is portrayed by actor Patrick Mapel, minimizes Hughes 's role as a founder of the company.]

Hughes moved to Chicago, the headquarters of the Obama campaign. The day that Senator Obama declared his candidacy, two web sites were launched—a standard campaign site, BarackObama.com, and Hughes's brainchild, My.BarackObama.com, nicknamed MyBO. The latter generated so much interest and traffic that on its first day of operation it nearly crashed.

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