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Barack Obama

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Barack Hussein Obama II was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961. On January 20, 2008 became the 44th president of the United States.

The son of parents from Kenya, Barack Obama Sr., and Kansas, Ann Dunham, Obama was born and raised in Hawaii.

Obama Sr. met Ms. Dunham while both studying at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and later married on February 2, 1961. Obama Sr. then moved to Massachusetts to attend Harvard University to pursue a Ph.D. leaving behind his wife and baby son. The relationship soured and in March 1964 the two divorced. His mother married a year later Lolo Soetoro, a University of Hawaii student from Indonesia. A year later, the family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Obama's half-sister Maya was born. At the age of 10. Obama was sent back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents, with his mother and sister to follow soon after.

While in Hawaii, Obama enrolled at Punahou Academy where he excelled in basketball and graduated in 1979 with honors. As one of three black students he became conscious of racism and what it meant to be African American. In 1979 Obama entered Occidental College in Los Angeles, after two years he transferred to Columbia University in New York City, graduating in 1983 with a degree in political science. Obama then attended Harvard and graduated magna cum laude with a law degree in 1991.

To get his feet wet, Obama worked in the business sector for a couple of years before moving to Chicago in 1985. There he worked on the South Side as a community organizer for low-income residents in the Roseland and Altgeld Gardens communities. An opportunity to visit relatives in Kenya came while working in Chicago and decided to visit the graves of his biological father, who had recently died in a vehicular crash in 1982, and grandfather. "For a long time I sat between the two graves and wept," Obama wrote. "I saw that my life in America - the Black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I'd 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."

This emotional visit aided in his aim of purpose and encouraged entered Harvard Law School in 1988. In 1989 he joined the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin as a summer associate, where he met his future wife Michelle. In 1990, Obama was elected the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review. On October 3, 1992, Obama and Michelle were married and moved to Kenwood, on Chicago's South Side. There they welcomed their two daughters, Malia in 1998 and Sasha in 2001.

Obama returned to practice as a civil rights lawyer in Chicago while teaching constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago Law School between 1992 and 2004. In 1992, Obama got his feet wet in politics by organizing voter registration drives during Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.

In 1996, Obama won a seat at the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat. While there, he worked with both parties to pass legislation on ethics, expanded health care services, early childhood education, created a state earned-income tax credit and as chairman of the Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services Committee worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.

In 2000, Obama ran under the Democratic primary for the U.S. House of Representatives but was unsuccessful. This setback only emboldened him more and in 2002, he began raising funds to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate in 2004 which he won with 70 percent of the vote. With this win Obama became only the third African American elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction. As a Senator, Obama partnered with Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana on a bill to destroy weapons of mass destruction in Eastern Europe and Russia. He also worked with Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to create a website to track all federal spending. Obama also spoke out for victims of Hurricane Katrina, pushed alternative energy development and improved veterans' benefits.

In 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, gaining enough delegates on June 3, 2008. On November 4, 2008, Obama defeated Republican presidential nominee John McCain to win election as the 44th president of the United States - and the first African American to hold this office. In 2012 Obama won re-election beating Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

President Obama's Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010 among many other notable achievements in his eight years as president. During his farewell address on January 10, 2017, Obama spoke about his early days in Chicago. "Now this is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, and they get engaged, and they come together to demand it. After eight years as your president, I still believe that. And it's not just my belief. Its's the beating heart of our American idea - our bold experiment in self-government." He also appealed for tolerance and to continue the fight against discrimination: "If we decline to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don't look like us, we diminish the prospects of our own children - because those brown kids will represent a larger share of America's workforce, Going forward, we must uphold laws against discrimination...But laws alone won't be enough. Hearts we must change."

Bibliography Barack Obama. Accessed February 1, 2022.

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