barack obama served as the 44th president of the united states. His story is American history: values from the heart, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as a means of getting ahead, and the conviction that such a blessed life should be lived in service to others.
When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, he became the first African American to serve. the framers of the constitution always hoped that our leadership would not be limited to wealthy americans or family connections. subject to the prejudices of their time, many of them owned slaves, most would not have foreseen an African-American president. Obama’s father, Barack Sr., a Kenyan economist, met his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, when they were both students in Hawaii, where Barack was born on August 4, 1961. They later divorced, and Barack’s mother married a man from indonesia, where he spent his early childhood. Before fifth grade, he returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents and attend Punahou High School on a scholarship.
In his memoir My Father’s Dreams (1995), Obama describes the complexities of discovering his identity as a teenager. after two years at western university in los angeles, he transferred to columbia university, where he studied political science and international relations. After graduating in 1983, Obama worked in New York City, then became a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side, coordinating with churches to improve housing conditions and establish job training programs in a hard-hit community. by the closures of steel plants. In 1988, he went to Harvard Law School, where he attracted national attention as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon returning to Chicago, he joined a small civil rights law firm.
in 1992, obama married michelle robinson, an attorney who had also excelled at harvard law. Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, were born in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, and then to the United States. Senate in 2004. At that summer’s Democratic National Convention, he delivered a highly acclaimed keynote address. some pundits instantly declared him future president, but most didn’t expect it to happen for some time. However, in 2008 he was elected over Arizona Senator John McCain by 365 to 173 electoral votes.
As the incoming president, Obama faced many challenges: an economic collapse, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continuing threat of terrorism. Opening before an estimated crowd of 1.8 million, Obama proposed unprecedented federal spending to revive the economy and also hoped to renew America’s stature in the world. during his first term, he signed three landmark bills: a comprehensive bill to stimulate the economy, legislation making health care more accessible and affordable, and legislation reforming the nation’s financial institutions. Obama also pushed for a fair pay bill for women, financial reform legislation, and consumer protection efforts. In 2009, Obama became the fourth president to receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2012, he was re-elected over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by 332 to 206 electoral votes. The Middle East remained a key foreign policy challenge. Obama had overseen the assassination of osama bin laden, but a new self-proclaimed islamic state emerged during a civil war in syria and began inciting terrorist attacks. obama sought to handle a hostile iran with a treaty that hampered its development of nuclear weapons. The Obama administration also adopted a climate change agreement signed by 195 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb global warming.
in the final year of his second term, obama spoke at two events that clearly moved him: the 50th anniversary of the selma to montgomery civil rights march and the opening of the national museum of african american history and culture. “Our union is not perfect yet, but we are getting close,” he said in selma. “And that’s why we celebrate,” he told attendees at the museum’s Washington opening, “knowing that our work isn’t done yet.”
the presidential biographies on whitehouse.gov are of “the presidents of the united states of america” by frank freidel and hugh sidey.
Learn more about Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle Obama.