Barack Obama Biography

44th President of the United States

Years Served as President: 2009-2017

Vice President: Joseph Biden 

Party: Democrat

Obama in Oval Office
President Barack Obama is photographed during a presidential portrait sitting for an official photo in the Oval Office, Dec. 6, 2012.

Age at Inauguration: 47

Home State: Hawaii

Date of Birth: August 4, 1961

Married: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson 

Children: Malia, Sasha

Nickname: Barry

What is Barack Obama known for?

Barack Obama is best known for being the first African American president of the United States.

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Early Life

Barack Obama II was born in 1961 in Hawaii. His parents were Ann Durham from Kansas and Barack Obama Sr. from Kenya. They had met while they were both students at the University of Hawaii.

Obama Sr. left the family when Barack was two, eventually returning to Kenya. Ann later married a man named Lolo Soetoro, another student at the University of Hawaii who was from Indonesia.

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For about four years, Barack lived in Indonesia with his mother and stepfather.

His mother was worried about Barack’s education and sent him to live with his grandparents in Hawaii, where he attended a private school called the Punahou School.

After graduation, Barack went to Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years, then to Columbia University in New York City. He graduated with a degree in political science in 1983.

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Early Career

Obama had several different jobs after completing college. He worked as a researcher for a year at a business consulting firm. Next, he became a community organizer in the South Side of Chicago.

As an organizer, Obama thought he could accomplish more with a law degree. He decided to study at Harvard University.

At Harvard, Obama was an exceptional student. He was the first African American to become the president of a prestigious journal called the Harvard Law Review.

Harvard College

His historic accomplishment got national attention, and Obama received a contract to write a book about race relations. The book was called Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

He later directed Illinois Project Vote, which aimed to encourage more black voters to vote in the 1992 election.

After that, he became an attorney with a civil rights law firm and a lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.

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Family Life

After his first year at Harvard, Obama had a summer internship at a law firm called Sidley and Austin.

His supervisor was Michelle Robinson, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School from Chicago’s South Side.

Michelle and Barack eventually fell in love. They dated for four years and were married in 1992. The couple lived in Hyde Park in Chicago.

Their daughter Malia was born in 1998 and followed by a second daughter, Natasha (nicknamed Sasha) in 2001.

Barack and Michelle at a wedding

Political Career

In 1996, Obama’s political career began when he ran for the Illinois State Senate and won. In the State Senate, Obama was a leader in helping children, the elderly, the poor, and labor unions.

He served in the Illinois State Senate until 2004, when he was elected to the United States Senate. That same year, Obama was selected to make a speech at the Democratic National Convention.

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His speech was extremely popular and Obama received major national attention.

A phrase from his speech even became the title of his next book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. The book became a bestseller.

In 2007, Obama announced that he would run in the 2008 presidential election.

After he defeated Hilary Clinton to secure the Democratic nomination, Obama chose Joseph (Joe) Biden, a Senator from Delaware, as his running mate.

Joe Biden

Obama and Biden ran against Republicans John McCain and Sarah Palin. Obama’s charisma, interesting background, and inspiring speeches drew large crowds everywhere he campaigned.

After a historically large voter turnout, Obama was elected president. He became the first African American president in United States history.

Obama first black president
With his family by his side, Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th president of the United States by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. in Washington, D.C., Jan. 20, 2009.

Presidency

When Obama took office, he was facing some big challenges. The economy was struggling, and U.S. troops were still involved in conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

During his first two years as president, Obama worked on healthcare reform, improving the economy, and bringing most of the U.S. troops home from Iraq.

Desert Storm Gulf War

He signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010. Often called “Obamacare,” the act was designed to make health insurance more affordable for American people.

Later, Obama focused on gun control, immigration reform, and climate change. Many of Obama’s initiatives did not pass through the Republican-controlled House and Senate.

During Obama’s presidency, the leader of the September 11 terrorist attacks, Osama bin Laden, was finally captured and killed.

military operation

Obama also significantly improved foreign relations and perceptions of the United States around the world.

Some of his accomplishments include opening diplomatic relations with Cuba and making a nuclear program agreement with Iran.

In 2009, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.”

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After the Presidency

After serving two terms as president, Obama remained with his family in Washington, DC, where his youngest daughter finished high school in 2019.

For the most part, the family has kept a low profile. Both Barack and Michelle have taken on charitable causes, and both signed a book deal.

books in bookshop

Michelle’s memoir, Becoming, was published in 2018. Barack continues to work on his third book.

Obama is also working on opening the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago, which will feature a museum, forum, library, plaza, and athletic center.

Barack Obama and Michelle

Fun Facts About Barack Obama

Barack Obama was the first president to be born outside of the continental United States.

Obama’s name means “one who is blessed” in Swahili.

He can speak Indonesian and Spanish.

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In 2006, Obama won a Grammy Award for narrating the audio version of his memoir, Dreams of My Father.

Obama is an avid sports fan who is especially interested in basketball.

His Secret Service handlers gave him the code name “Renegade.”

Obama Time magazine person of the year

Obama was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year in both 2008 and 2012.

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