President Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
His story is the American story of values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.
With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He was raised with help from his grandfather, who served in Patton’s army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank.
After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.
He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.
President Obama’s years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world’s most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online.
He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009. He and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
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He was born on August 4th, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to a mother from Kansas, Stanley Ann Dunham, and a father from Kenya, Barack Obama Sr. He was also raised by his grandfather, who served in Patton’s army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to become vice president at a local bank.
He worked his way through school—Occidental College in Los Angeles, Columbia University in New York, and later, Harvard Law School—with the help of scholarship money and student loans.
In 1985, Barack Obama moved to Chicago, where he got his start in community organizing on the city’s South Side, working to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.
The President called that time in his life “the best education I ever had, better than anything I got at Harvard Law School.” He has credited that experience as crucial to finding his identity—something that shaped his path to the White House.
Barack Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996. During his time in Springfield, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004, he reached across the aisle to pass the farthest-reaching lobbying reform in a generation, lock up the world’s most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by tracking federal spending online.
Barack Obama was sworn in as president on January 20th, 2009, in the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, at a time when our economy was losing 800,000 jobs a month. He acted immediately to get our economy back on track. Since then, the private sector has added back more than 10 million jobs during the longest, uninterrupted period of job growth in our nation’s history.
In his first term, the President cut taxes for every American worker—putting $3,600 back in the pockets of the typical family. He passed historic Wall Street reform to make sure taxpayers never again have to bail out big banks. He passed the landmark Affordable Care Act, helping to put quality and affordable health care within reach for millions of Americans. He ended the war in Iraq and is working to responsibly end the war in Afghanistan.
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Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961, at Kapiʻolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital (now Kapiʻolani Medical Center for Women and Children) in Honolulu, Hawaii, and would become the first President to have been born in Hawaii. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was born in Wichita, Kansas, and was of mostly English ancestry. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was a Luo from Nyang’oma Kogelo, Kenya. Obama’s parents met in 1960 in a Russian class at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where his father was a foreign student on scholarship. The couple married in Wailuku on Maui on February 2, 1961, and separated when, in late August 1961, Obama’s mother moved with their newborn son to attend the University of Washington in Seattle for one year. In the meantime, Obama, Sr. completed his undergraduate economics degree in Hawaii in June 1962, then left to attend graduate school at Harvard University on a scholarship. Obama’s parents divorced in March 1964. Obama Sr. returned to Kenya in 1964 where he remarried; he visited Barack in Hawaii only once, in 1971. He died in an automobile accident in 1982 when his son was 21 years old.
In 1963, Dunham met Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian East–West Center graduate student in geography at the University of Hawaii, and the couple were married on Molokai on March 15, 1965. After two one-year extensions of his J-1 visa, Lolo returned to Indonesia in 1966, followed sixteen months later by his wife and stepson in 1967, with the family initially living in a Menteng Dalam neighborhood in the Tebet subdistrict of south Jakarta, then from 1970 in a wealthier neighborhood in the Menteng subdistrict of central Jakarta. From ages six to ten, Obama attended local Indonesian-language schools: St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School for two years and Besuki Public School for one and a half years, supplemented by English-language Calvert School homeschooling by his mother
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BARACK OBAMA Law Career
It was during this time that Barack Obama, who said he “was not raised in a religious household,” joined the Trinity United Church of Christ. He also visited relatives in Kenya, which included an emotional visit to the graves of his biological father and paternal grandfather. “For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept,” Obama said. “I saw that my life in America—the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago—all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away.”
Barack Obama returned from Kenya with a sense of renewal, entering Harvard Law School in 1988. The next year, he met Michelle Robinson, an associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin. She was assigned to be Obama’s adviser during a summer internship at the firm, and not long after, the couple began dating. Their first kiss took place outside of a Chicago shopping center—where a plaque featuring a photo of the couple kissing was installed more than two decades later, in August 2012. In February 1990, Obama was elected the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from Harvard, magna cum laude, in 1991.
After law school, Obama returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer, joining the firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland. He also taught part time at the University of Chicago Law School (1992-2004)—first as a lecturer and then as a professor—and helped organize voter registration drives during Bill Clinton‘s 1992 presidential campaign. On October 3, 1992, he and Michelle were married. They moved to Kenwood, on Chicago’s South Side, and welcomed two daughters several years later: Malia (born 1998) and Sasha (born 2001).
Entry Into Illinois Politics
Barack Obama published an autobiography, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, in 1995. The work received high praise from literary figures like Toni Morrison and has since been printed in 10 languages, including Chinese, Swedish and Hebrew. The book had a second printing in 2004, and was adapted for a children’s version. The 2006 audiobook version of Dreams, narrated by Obama, received a Grammy Award (best spoken word album).
Obama’s advocacy work led him to run for a seat in the Illinois State Senate. He ran as a Democrat, and won election in 1996. During these years, Obama worked with both Democrats and Republicans to draft legislation on ethics, and expand health care services and early childhood education programs for the poor. He also created a state earned-income tax credit for the working poor. Obama became chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee as well, and after a number of inmates on death row were found innocent, he worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.
In 2000, Obama made an unsuccessful Democratic primary run for the U.S. House of Representatives seat held by four-term incumbent candidate Bobby Rush. Undeterred, he created a campaign committee in 2002, and began raising funds to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004. With the help of political consultant David Axelrod, Obama began assessing his prospects of a Senate win.
Following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Obama was an early opponent of President George W. Bush’s push to go to war with Iraq. Obama was still a state senator when he spoke against a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq during a rally at Chicago’s Federal Plaza in October 2002. “I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars,” he said. “What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.” Despite his protests, the Iraq War began in 2003.
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