Barack Obama II served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. Obama made history as the first African-American president and implemented major policy changes during his two terms, including the Affordable Care Act. This article provides a comprehensive biography of Barack Obama’s personal background, education, early career, rise to the presidency, major accomplishments, and post-presidential activities.
When Was Barack Obama Born?
Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His parents were Barack Obama Sr., who was from Kenya, and Stanley Ann Dunham, a white woman from Kansas. They met as students at the University of Hawaii.
Where Did Barack Obama Grow Up?
Obama’s parents separated when he was only two years old. His father eventually returned to Kenya while his mother remarried an Indonesian man named Lolo Soetoro. At age six, Obama moved with his mother and stepfather to Jakarta, Indonesia, where he lived for four years and attended local schools.
What Schools Did Barack Obama Attend?
Obama returned to Hawaii at age ten to live with his maternal grandparents. He was enrolled in the prestigious Punahou School in Honolulu, graduating in 1979. Obama then attended Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years before transferring to and graduating from Columbia University in New York City with a B.A. in political science in 1983. He later graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1991.
What Was Barack Obama’s Early Career?
After finishing law school, Obama worked on the south side of Chicago as a community organizer from 1985 to 1988. He then returned to Harvard Law to serve as the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. In 1992, Obama directed Illinois Project Vote to register nearly 150,000 African-American voters. He also joined a Chicago law firm specializing in civil rights litigation while teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School.
Table 1: Barack Obama’s Educational Background
|High School Diploma
|Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
|Harvard Law School
|Juris Doctor (magna cum laude)
When Did Barack Obama Enter Politics?
Obama’s first steps into politics came in 1996 when he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. He served three terms in the state legislature from 1997 to 2004. In 2000, Obama unsuccessfully challenged incumbent U.S. House Representative Bobby Rush in the Democratic primary. But Obama achieved national recognition with a high-profile speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention endorsing John Kerry for president.
How Did Barack Obama Rise to the U.S. Senate?
Obama’s inspiring convention speech led to his election to the U.S. Senate in November 2004. Obama delivered the keynote address on the convention’s second night in Boston, launching his rise to national prominence. He won 70% of the vote to victory against Republican candidate Alan Keyes in the Illinois Senate election.
When Did Barack Obama First Run for President?
In February 2007, Obama announced his candidacy to seek the 2008 Democratic nomination for president. Initially considered a longshot against frontrunner Hillary Clinton, Obama portrayed himself as a fresh voice calling for change focused on bipartisan solutions. He defeated Clinton and other contenders to clinch the nomination in June 2008.
Table 2: Obama Presidential Campaign Timeline
|February 10, 2007
|Obama formally announces 2008 presidential campaign
|June 3, 2008
|Clinches Democratic nomination after defeating Hillary Clinton in primaries
|November 4, 2008
|Elected as 44th president by defeating Republican John McCain
|January 20, 2009
|Inaugurated as first African-American U.S. president
|November 6, 2012
|Re-elected to a second term after beating Mitt Romney
What Were Barack Obama’s Major Accomplishments as President?
As president, Barack Obama signed several landmark pieces of legislation, oversaw the U.S. military raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and became the first sitting president to endorse same-sex marriage. Some of Obama’s most notable presidential achievements include:
Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” represented the most drastic health care policy overhaul since the 1960s. It required Americans to purchase health insurance while expanding Medicaid coverage to more lower-income individuals. Around 20 million people gained health insurance due to Obamacare.
Economic Stimulus Package
To combat the Great Recession, Obama ushered the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to stimulate economic growth through tax cuts, unemployment benefits, and domestic spending projects. Most economists credit the legislation for helping stabilize the economy during Obama’s first term.
Support for Same-Sex Marriage
Obama endorsed same-sex marriage in May 2012, becoming the first sitting president to openly support marriage equality. The landmark decision followed his signing of repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
What Executive Orders Did President Obama Sign?
President Obama utilized his executive authority to sign over 270 executive orders during his tenure, allowing him to bypass Congressional gridlock to enact policies on immigration, gun control, and other divisive issues.
Some major Obama executive orders include:
- Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Order: Required companies with federal contracts to disclose past labor law violations
- DREAM Act: Deferred deportation for certain undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children
- stricter background checks for gun purchases after Congressional attempts at gun control reform failed
What Criticisms Did Barack Obama Face as President?
Despite historic legislative achievements, critics charged Obama with failing to meet lofty expectations to bring about greater political unity. Republican opposition stymied many of Obama’s second term goals like immigration reform and gun control laws. The rise of ISIS and crisis in Syria also drew scrutiny towards his foreign policy.
What Did Barack Obama Do After Leaving the Presidency?
After Donald Trump assumed the presidency in January 2017, Barack Obama remained actively engaged as a private citizen. He delivered paid speeches, wrote a White House memoir slated for release in late 2023, campaigned for Democratic candidates in midterm elections, and continued public service through his foundations:
Obama Presidential Center
The Obama Presidential Center, a planned museum and public gathering space dedicated to preserving his administration’s legacy, will open in 2025 in his hometown of Chicago.
Higher Ground Productions
Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama created the production company Higher Ground, which has produced Netflix documentary and fiction films about disability rights, industrial decline in America’s heartland, and more.
Table 3: Barack Obama’s Post-Presidency Activities
|Vacation and memoir writing
|Campaign for Democratic candidates in midterms
|Continued activism and Higher Ground Productions launched
|Published first memoir, “A Promised Land”
|Continued media and political activism
|Continued activism & announced second memoir for 2023
|Obama Presidential Center scheduled to open in Chicago
Barack Obama made history as America’s first African-American president, implementing major policies like the Affordable Care Act while guiding the country through profound economic and social changes.
Obama’s improbable path from obscured law school graduate to presidential nominee embodied the American ideals of opportunity and achievement based on merit rather than background. While criticisms remain, Obama restored confidence in America’s global reputation and oversaw milestone achievement.
Frequently Asked Questions About Barack Obama
Here are answers to some of the most common questions asked about former President Barack Obama:
How old was Barack Obama when he became president?
Obama was 47 years old when he was elected president in 2008, making him the fifth youngest U.S. president in history behind Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, and Ulysses S. Grant.
Is Barack Obama a Democrat or Republican?
Obama has been affiliated with the Democratic Party throughout his political career, first getting elected to the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat in 1996.
Where was Barack Obama born?
Obama was born on August 4, 1961 at the Kapi’olani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu, Hawaii. Conspiracy theories questioning his natural-born citizenship were widely discredited.
What religion is Barack Obama?
Obama’s father Barack Obama Sr. was raised Muslim but later became an atheist. Obama’s mother Stanley Ann Dunham grew up Baptist but raised Obama in a secular household. As president, Obama identified as a Protestant Christian.
Who did Barack Obama run against in 2008?
In 2008, Obama defeated former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the hotly contested Democratic primary. He ran against and defeated Republican nominee John McCain in the 2008 general presidential election.