Barack Obama was born on August 4th, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii to Ann Durham, a white American from Wichita Kansas, and father Barack Obama, Sr. from Nyanza Province, Kenya. Obama’s parents met in 1960 attending the University of Hawaii in Mānoa and later married in February 2nd, 1961. At the age of two, his parents separated and later divorced. His father returned to Kenya after pursuing his PhD at Harvard University. Barack’s father later died in 1982 from a car crash. Obama’s mother later remarried Indonesian student Lolo Soetoro while attending college in Hawaii. The family moved to Jakarta, where Barack Obama went to school and was taught in the Indonesian language.
Obama later moved back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham. His mother later died of ovarian cancer in 1995. Barack graduated with honors from Punahou Academy in 1979. Being only one of three black students from his school, and coming from a multiracial heritage, Obama became conscious of racism and struggled to reconcile with his heritage. In his teen years, Barack admitted to using alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine. After graduating from high school, Barack attended Occidental College for two years in Los Angeles, and then transferred to Columbia University in New York studying political science where he later graduated in 1983. After college, Barack Obama worked in New York for Business International Corporation and NYPIRG. In 1985, he moved to Chicago where he worked as a community organizer for low-income residents and for the public housing development in the city’s South Side.
In 1988, Barack travelled to Kenya for five weeks and met his paternal relatives for the very first time. Later that year, Obama entered Harvard Law School where he became the first African American to be elected as the editor of the Harvard Law Review, and was later elected president of the journal in his second year. Such an accomplishment gained much national media attention which gave Barack the opportunity to write his personal memoir. The memoir was later published in 1995 titled Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, and even won a Grammy for the audio version of the book. Obama later graduated magna cum laude in 1991.
While a summer associate at the Chicago law firm Sidley & Austin, Obama met his wife Michelle in 1988. They later married in 1992 and had two daughters, Malia (born in 1998) and Sasha (born in 2001).
Barack returned back to Chicago where he practiced as a civil rights lawyer for the firm Miner, Barnhill & Galland. He also spent twelve years teaching constitutional law as a professor at University of Chicago Law School. Obama ran for the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat, and was elected in 1996 from the south side neighborhood of Hyde Park. During his term he expanded early childhood education programs and health care services for the poor. He also created a state earned income tax credit for the working poor. Obama also worked with the law enforcement officials to require videotaping interrogations and confessions in all capital cases after a number of inmates on death row were found innocent.
In 2000, Obama made an unsuccessful run for the Democratic primary in the U.S. House of Representatives to Bobby Rush. As an early opponent to President George W. Bush’s push for war in Iraq after the 9/11 attacks as a state senator, Obama made clear that although the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was a bad person, Iraq posed no imminent threat to the United States.
As the war began in 2003, Obama decided to run for the U.S. Senate. By 2004, Obama won by 52% in the Democratic primary. That summer he delivered the keynote speech for John Kerry in the 2004 Democratic National Convention, emphasizing the importance of unity and also criticizing Bush’s administration’s policies. After the convention, Barack returned to his U.S. Senate bid in Illinois where he debated against former presidential candidate Alan Keyes on the issues of abortion, stem cell research, tax cuts, school vouchers, and gun control. By November 2004, Obama set the largest electoral victory in Illinois by receiving 70% of the vote compared to Keyes 27%.
During his stay in office, he expanded efforts to destroy weapons of mass destruction in Eastern Europe and Russia and also worked on creating a website tracking all federal spending. On the Senate floor, Obama was the first to speak up about issues such as the avian flu, the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and alternative energy development.
Barack published his second book in October 2006 titled The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. In 2007, Barack announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. With a tight battle against former first lady and U.S. Senator of New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama became the presumptive nominee in June 2008.
Barack Obama will be officially sworn in tomorrow January 20th, 2009 as the President of the United States of America. As our forty-fourth President, he will be the first African American to take the role.