Barack Hussein Obama II was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to parents Barack H. Obama, Sr., and Stanley Ann Dunham. His parents divorced when he was 2 years old and he was raised by his mother, Ann, and maternal grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham. His mother later married Lolo Soetoro, and his sister Maya was born in 1970. (He also has several siblings on his father’s side.)
Obama moved with his family to Indonesia in 1967, where he attended local Indonesian schools and received additional lessons via U.S. correspondence courses under his mother’s direction.
He returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparents in 1971 and attended Punahou School, from which he graduated in 1979. Obama first attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, before transferring to Columbia University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1983.
After graduation, Obama briefly worked as an analyst at Business International Corporation in New York City, before changing his career direction toward community service organizing. He relocated to Chicago, Illinois, in 1985 when he accepted a job with the Developing Communities Project. Eventually rising to the role of Director, Obama worked with low-income communities on Chicago’s South Side, often collaborating with local religious organizations and civic groups.
After three years of community organizing, Obama enrolled in Harvard Law School. After completing his first year, he worked as a summer associate at Chicago corporate law firm of Sidley & Austin, where his mentor was Michelle Robinson, his future wife.
Obama was elected the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, prior to graduating magna cum laude in 1991. He returned to Chicago in 1992 and served as the Illinois Executive Director of PROJECT VOTE!. In 1993, he was hired as an associate at the firm of Davis Miner Barnhill & Gallard, where he largely worked on voting rights cases.
Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson were married in 1992 at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. They have two daughters, Malia and Natasha “Sasha.” In the summer of 1995, Obama’s first book was published. Dreams From my Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance detailed his personal history and search for identity.
In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate from the thirteenth district. As a State Senator, he served as Democratic Spokesperson for Public Health and Welfare Committee and Co-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, in addition to being a member of the Judiciary and Revenue Committees. He also worked as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago from 1996 until 2004, teaching three courses per year.
Obama was elected to a second term in the Illinois State Senate in November 1998. In 2000, Obama made his first run for the U.S. Congress when he sought the Democratic U.S. House seat in Illinois First District. He lost to incumbent Representative Bobby Rush by a margin of more than 2-to-1.
In July 2004, Obama delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, held in Boston, Massachusetts. He was elected as the junior Senator from Illinois in November 2004. While serving as U.S. Senator from Illinois, Obama completed his second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, published in October 2006.
On February 10, 2007, Obama formally announced his candidacy for President of the United States. He accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination at Invesco Stadium in Denver, Colorado on August 28, 2008. On November 4, 2008, Obama became the first African-American to be elected President. He resigned his seat in the U.S. Senate on November 16, 2008.
Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009.
Domestic policy decisions dominated the first 100 Days of the Obama administration. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which encourages fair pay for all workers and established new methods of protesting unfair paychecks, was the first signed legislation of the administration. To combat the effects of the Great Recession, President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (known as the Recovery Act) in February 2009, which outlined a policy to create additional jobs, extend unemployment benefits, and established the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
In March 2010, after announcing his intent for healthcare reform in a 2009 address to Congress, President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), establishing the most sweeping reforms of the American healthcare system in recent history. To improve access to healthcare coverage, the Act included a Patient’s Bill of Rights to end discrimination by insurance companies based on pre-existing conditions. Among its other reforms, the Act strengthened Medicare and required the insurer to cover preventative screenings for cancer, diabetes, and blood pressure disorders.
The Obama administration centered its foreign policy on drawing down the number of American forces stationed overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. President Obama also committed to destroying the ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) terrorist organization through the administration’s comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, including systematic airstrikes against ISIL, providing additional support to forces fighting ISIL on the ground, increased cooperation with counter-terrorism partners, and humanitarian assistance to civilians.
On May 2, 2011, President Obama announced to the nation that the United States had conducted an operation which resulted in the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Following leads from the intelligence community, the raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound was conducted with no American casualties.
President Obama also obtained congressional approval for military action against Syria following the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons on civilians. Negotiations with Russia led to the signing of a New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) Treaty, which limited the two countries to fewer strategic arms over the course of seven years through inspections and verification. In 2015, the U.S. and other partners reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, which aimed to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and committed Iran to further monitoring of all Iranian nuclear activities.
In conjunction with President Castro, President Obama announced plans to normalize foreign relations with Cuba, including reopening the U.S. Embassy in Havana in July 2015. The First Family visited Cuba in March 2016, making President Obama the first sitting President to visit the nation in 90 years.
President and Mrs. Obama returned to their lives as private citizens on January 20, 2017.
Works published by Barack Obama
- Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, 1995
- The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, 2006
- Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to my Daughters, 2010