President Obama 101

August 8, 2012

During an April 2009 press conference marking the first 100 days of his presidency, Mr. Obama noted that he was “humbled by [the fact that] the presidency is extraordinarily powerful but is also part of a tapestry of American life.” Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States. His life story, now familiar to many people, is unique but also a part of that quintessentially American tapestry.

President Obama 101

President Barack Obama talks abut taxes, Friday, August 3, 2012, in Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House campus in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The first African-American President, Mr. Obama’s mother was Kansas born Stanley Ann Dunham. His father, Barack Obama Sr., whom Miss Dunham met in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii, was Kenyan. They married, and Mr. Obama was born on August 4th, 1961. When he was two, his parents separated and then divorced. He was raised by his mother and grandparents in Hawaii and in Indonesia, where the family moved when his step-father was called home from studying abroad. He later returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham, where he finished high school.

After two years of college at Occidental University in California, Mr. Obama transferred to Columbia University in New York, eventually staying the city for two years after graduation and working in business. He soon moved to Chicago, however, where he took a job as a community organizer and worked on diverse projects including a job training program, a college tutoring program, and a tenant’s rights organization. Before starting law school at Harvard in 1988, he spent several weeks traveling in Europe and then in Kenya with his father’s family.

At Harvard, Mr. Obama became the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He also worked as a summer associate at the law firm Sidley & Austin, where he met his wife, Michelle Obama, who initially rejected his request for a date. They eventually married in 1992 and have two daughters, Natasha (“Sasha”) and Malia.

After graduation, he moved back to Chicago and practiced civil rights law at a small firm, as well as joining the staff of the University of Chicago where he taught constitutional law. He stayed active in the community throughout this time, and participated in a voter registration drive during the 1992 election of Bill Clinton. This led to his run for Illinois state senate, to which he was elected in 1996, just after his first book, Dreams from my Father was published.

In 2000, Mr. Obama ran for Congress from his district in Illinois and lost to the incumbent Bobby Rush. As a member of the senate in Illinois, however, he was unabashed about opposing the war with Iraq that was now being waged post-9-11. This, amongst other issues, compelled him to run again for office and he became a candidate for the United State Senator in 2003.

The 2004 Democratic convention was a pivotal moment for Mr. Obama — he delivered a powerful keynote speech emphasizing unity. It was the first time many Americans had heard his name, and many of them remembered it. It also propelled him in his Senate race, which he won.

After joining the Senate, he gained a reputation for working across party lines and working for government transparency, positions he has reinforced as a presidential candidate beginning in 2007 and throughout his presidency.


Slideshow: Obama on the Issues

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Video: Who is Barack Obama?

After four years in charge, we take another look at the President’s story.


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