A Nobel Laureate
Barack is also a recipient of the world-famous Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in promoting international cooperation and diplomacy, and has also received several other awards for his books such as “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope”. He is also most often described as one of the black people who extraordinarily changed the world, among the likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Throughout Barack Obama’s tenure as president he enacted numerous policies that helped the United States rise back up from the effects of the recession that severely crippled the economic state of the country. Among these policies, the most notable were his Health Care Reform Act, Tax Relief Act, Job Creation Act and Budget Control Act. Barack is also the first president to have supported same-sex marriage in the country.
Barack Obama, Jr. was born at the Kapi’olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He is the son of Barack Obama Sr., a famous economist in Kenya, and of Stanley Ann Dunham, an anthropologist.
Barack Obama, Sr. was part of the Luo tribe, the third largest ethnic group in Kenya, and hailed from the village of Nyang’oma Kogelo. At the age of eighteen, while working for an oil company, he got married to his first wife, Kezia Aoko, who bore him two children. In 1959, Barack Sr. was given a scholarship to study economics and was selected to be among the students who were going to be sent to the United States. He entered the University of Hawaii, where he met his second wife Ann Dunham.
Stanley Ann Dunham had quite a fairly rural background like Barack Sr., but they were worlds apart. She was born in Kansas, but spent her childhood travelling in different states such as California, Texas and Oklahoma. After Hawaii became a part of the United States in 1959, Ann’s family moved to Honolulu to look for business opportunities. She entered the University of Hawaii to study Anthropology.
Barack Sr. and Ann Dunham met each other when they both attended a Russian language course in 1960. Barack Sr. was the school’s very first African student, and greatly caught the attention of Ann. After courting her and taking her out on dates, the couple fell in love and decided to get married, in spite of the opposition they received from their parents. In 1961, Barack married Ann, who was already three months pregnant with her child. She then bore him Barack Obama Jr.
Although Ann loved Barack Sr. dearly, their marriage got into the rocks when he told her about his marriage with Kezia. This put strain on their relationship, in spite of Barack Sr. claiming that they were already divorced. In late August, Ann and Barack Sr. separated after Ann decided to move to Washington to study at the University of Washington. Barack Sr., on the other hand, went to Harvard University to finish his economics degree.
Estrangement from Barack Sr.
In 1964, while Barack was only two years old, Ann filed for a divorce after finding out that Barack Sr.’s claim that his previous marriage was divorced was false. Barack Sr. did not contest the divorce, and in that same year returned to Kenya and remarried. He would only visit his son Barack once, in 1971.
The following year, in 1965, Ann married Lolo Seotoro, an Indonesian national and a fellow student at the University of Hawaii who studied geography, who she met two years earlier. After graduating from the university, Lolo returned to Indonesia in 1966, followed by Ann and Barack sixteen months later.
Initially living in Menteng Dalam, a middle-class neighbourhood in the southern section of Jakarta, Barack and his family moved to a wealthier part of the Menteng district in 1970. While in Indonesia, Barack studied at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School. After two years, he transferred to the Besuki Public School for the next one and a half years, while being home-schooled by his mother using the Calvert School method.
Mark of an Eventual Leader: Delivers Speeches Eloquently
At a young age, Barack already exhibited traits of leadership and above average intelligence. He was often praised in school for his exceptional intellect, and was also chosen to participate in declamatory speeches. And even though Lolo was his stepfather, Lolo treated Barack as his own real child, showering him with the love and care that he never received from Barack Sr. In 1970, Lolo and Ann had a child of their own, who they named Maya Seotoro-Ng.
Barack returned to Hawaii in 1971 to live with his grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham, followed by Ann and Maya the following year. He was granted a scholarship in the summer a year before to study at Punahou School to continue his studies. In 1975, after Ann finally earned her degree in anthropology, she invited Barack to go back to Indonesia, but Barack refused, deciding to remain in Hawaii to finish his studies. By mid-1975, Ann returned to Indonesia along with Maya to start her field work in anthropology.
Left with his grandparents, Barack continued his studies at Punahou School until he graduated from high school in 1979. The experience of being minimally supervised by his grandparents and living without his parents was rough and hard for Barack, who was exposed to many of the vices that teenagers were ‘enjoying’ at that time.
In fact, during his high school day, Barack became a member of the infamous “choom gang,” a group of teenagers that frequently smoked marijuana whenever they gathered together. He also got into drinking alcohol and smoking cocaine, which made his situation worse.
Another issue that greatly affected Barack’s childhood was his multi-cultural heritage, a fact that he struggled with growing up. In fact, in an interview made with him years later, Barack recalled:
“That my father looked nothing like the people around me—that he was black as pitch, my mother white as milk—barely registered in my mind.”
Enduring Racial Discrimination
Because of his skin color, Barack was often the subject of teasing and criticism among people of his age. Although it was not as strong as what he endured later on when he went to the United States mainland, the racism was still strong enough for Barack to engage in drugs and alcohol in his teens. Fortunately, amidst all the influences that Barack was exposed to, there was one that got him back at the right track: his grandparents.
In spite of not being able to monitor and be there for his grandchild most of the time, Stanley still made a great impact on the life of Barack. In those times that he spent with Barack, Stanley would often make it count by bringing Barack out for a treat or taking him to parks for a walk. And even though he was not a religious person, Stanley often taught Barack the importance of living right and having principles – something that Barack would keep in his heart for the rest of his life.
Through the guidance of his grandparents and the help of his good friends (both white and black), Barack was able to get out of his delinquent lifestyle and start walking on the right path to a good life. In an interview later on he stated:
“The opportunity that Hawaii offered—to experience a variety of cultures in a climate of mutual respect—became an integral part of my world view, and a basis for the values that I hold most dear.”
Educational Pursuits and Achievements
Barack was able to get his life back together and graduate from high school with good remarks. After his graduation, Barack left Hawaii for Los Angeles and attended Occidental College in 1979. In spite of the rampant racism that enveloped the schools during that time, Barack surprisingly made a lot of white friends who even helped him with his studies.
He had such charisma and skill in speech that in February 1981, he delivered his first-ever public speech at the grounds of the university urging the school to divest from South Africa as a way of discouraging apartheid in the country.
In the summer of that same year, Barack went to Indonesia to visit his mother Ann and step-sister Maya. He also toured Asia, visiting his friends’ families in India and Pakistan, spending three weeks with them and learning a lot about the life in these countries.
Upon his return to school, Barack transferred to Columbia University to further pursue his studies. Although he disliked politics, he took a course on political science, specializing on international relations. Barack did very well in school that he was hailed as one of the top students of the university, and by the time he graduated and received his bachelor’s degree in 1983 Barack was immediately taken in by the Business International Corporation, where he worked for one year. Afterwards, Barack joined the New York Public Interest Research Group and worked with them for a year.
In 1985, Barack applied at the Developing Communities Project, a church-based community organization that was established to respond to the numerous lay-offs in Southeast Chicago, where he was hired as its director. During his term as the project’s director, Barack was able to start a job training program for laid-off employees, a college preparatory program for high school students, and a tenant’s rights organization. Barack also worked part time as an instructor at the Gamaliel Foundation and helped in its community building projects.
In the summer of 1988, Barack took time off his work to visit Europe, where he stayed for three weeks and toured the region. Following this, he went down to Africa and stayed for five weeks. This visit marked the very first time that Barack ever saw and met with the relatives on his father’s side.
Upon his return to the United States, Barack attended the Harvard Law School. He immediately exhibited his exceptional intellect and charisma that within a year, he became an editor of the popular Harvard Law Review, and was made its president the following year. This got Barack the attention of the national media, since it was the first time that the Harvard Law Review was led by a black president.
Soon after, Barack got a contract from a publisher to write a book that discussed on the relationship between races, to which he saw as a chance to write a memoir. The book, which Barack titled “Dreams from My Father”, was completed and published in 1995.
While working part-time for a law firm in Chicago, Barack met Michelle Robinson, who was assigned to be his advised. While initially being rebuffed for his efforts to ask her out on a date, Barack finally got his chance when Michelle finally gave in to his requests and allowed him to take her out on a date in the summer of 1989.
After a “long” and “persistent” courting, Barack and Michelle were married on October 3, 1992. Michelle bore Barack two daughters, namely: Malia Ann (born on 1998) and Natasha (born on 2001).
Graduating Magna cum Laude from Harvard
Barack graduated from Harvard Law School as a J.D. magna cum laude in 1991, which truly highlighted his amazing intellect. He was offered to teach at the University of Chicago Law School – first as a Visiting Professor for Law and Government (he did this so he could focus on writing the memoir), then in 1992 Barack became a full-pledged professor, which he did for twelve years. He taught constitutional law during his tenure as a lecturer (from 1992 to 1996) and as a senior lecturer (1996 to 2004).
One of the other things that further gave Barack national attention early on was when he was named the director of Project Vote, which encouraged people to register as voters in the state of Illinois. The campaign was successful, registering over one hundred fifty thousand unregistered African Americans. Because of this, Barack was included in the “40 under Forty”, a list of the potential influential people organized by Crain’s Chicago Business.
Aside from teaching, Barack also practiced his degree by joining the law firm “Davis, Miller, Barnhill & Galland” in 1993. A law firm that focused on civil rights and economic development was exactly what Barack was looking for at that time, and he stayed with the group for the next eleven years, first serving as an associate (from 1993 to 1996) then as a legal counsel (1996 to 2004).
Barack was also included in the board of several organizations such as the Woods Fund of Chicago, the Joyce Foundation, and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.
Motivation in Joining Politics
Since he was young, Barack had already disliked politics for being dirty and dishonest; but as he grew up, he soon realized that if he was to make a powerful change in society, he had to have both the influence, the resources, and the power – and entering politics could give him all that. His desire further shifted when he started working for various organizations and saw how little change he was making.
Barack then realized that politics itself was not the problem – the problem was with good people not doing anything and letting the corrupt take over. He then made a decision to enter politics, and that changed his life forever.
Barack’s first entry into politics was successful when he was elected into the Illinois State Senate in 1996. He covered the 13th district, which had a good mix of cultural differences. During his tenure as a State Senator, Barack helped to create several bills that focused on the reformation of health care laws and ethics.
He became famous for his participation in the creation of the tax credits bill, which gave low-income earners an advantage. He also became a supporter of the “predatory mortgage lending” regulation, which aimed to lessen foreclosures. Barack’s productivity in the Illinois Senate caused him to land a second term in 1998, when he defeated opponent Yesse Yehudah.
Barack did have a major disappointment in his political career, when he lost the campaign for the House of Representatives in 2000. In 2003, Barack was named as the chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee of the Illinois Senate. During his term, he focused on monitoring racial profiling by having police record the races of the drivers that they detained. This gained him credit not just from the public, but even from the police force itself.
Running for Senate
In 2004, Barack decided to take his political career to a higher level by running for a seat in the United States Senate. He was among those that went against the government’s decision to go to war with Iraq; in fact, the day the war authorization was signed, Barack openly spoke in Chicago on how war was not in the best interests of the country. He eventually won the election, acquiring seventy percent of the votes against his opponent Alan Keyes.
Barack’s time in the Senate was both productive and busy, with him co-sponsoring numerous bills such as the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, which enforced certain policies regarding the immigration of numerous foreign nationals; the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act; and the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act, which was the very first bill that was passed with Barack as its primary sponsor in 2006.
The following year, Barack co-sponsored the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which focuses on strengthening public disclosure of funds and lobbying activities. Aside from sponsoring bills, Barack also held positions in various committees such as the Foreign Relations committee, the Environment and Public Works committee, the Veterans’ Affairs committee, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee and the European Affairs subcommittee, where he became its chairman.
Clashing with George Bush and Publishing “The Audacity of Hope”
Barack’s national popularity grew further during his time in the Senate because of his frequent clashes with the administration of the then-president George Bush on issues such as the involvement of the United States in the war against Iraq and the ever increasing amount of money being used to fund the war effort instead of national services. The increasing inflation rate soon shot up, which gave way to the infamous recession that almost bankrupted the country.
In 2006, Barack wrote and published his second book titled “The Audacity of Hope,” which illustrated the things that Barack learned from a sermon that was given by his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. Upon its release, the book became a bestseller and sold over a million copies in just a short time.
In February 2007, Barack finally announced his decision to run for the presidency of the United States. Speaking at the Old State Capitol building, Barack promised an end to the Iraq War and the Al Qaeda, an increased state of energy independence, and a universal health care system that would benefit all classes. It was during his electoral campaign that Barack became famous for his “Yes We Can” speech, which was later on made into a song by the famous lead singer Will I Am of the Black Eyed Peas.
TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year
During the Democratic Party nominations, Barack was pitted against the equally famous candidate Hillary Clinton, but won the nomination after Hillary pulled out of the campaign and endorsed Barack on June 7. Along with his vice-presidential pick Joe Biden, Barack went head-on with the Republican Party candidate John McCain, who was personally picked by Bush to be his successor.
During the elections, Barack got 52.9% of the popular votes and 365 electoral votes versus John McCain’s 45.7% popular votes and 173 electoral votes, thus winning the presidency. His election and candidacy caused Barack to be hailed as TIME Magazine’s Person of the Year.
As president, Barack made true his promises of speedily ending the war in Iraq and the return of the United States soldiers. Within eighteen months, the United States pulled its soldiers out slowly but surely, until by August of 2010, the last of the U.S. combat brigade went back to their motherland.
Because Barack became president at the height of the infamous recession that nearly depleted all of the country’s financial resources and got it close to declaring bankruptcy, one of his first actions was to establish several policies that would save the United States economy and steadily grow it back.
He signed several bills that helped rebuild the economic infrastructure by improving the spending of federal funds for health care, education, and direct assistance to individuals. He also focused on lessening the rate of unemployment in the country by enacting several policies that helped build jobs and invite investors to the country.
Another issue that Barack focused on is the reformation of the previous administration’s health care policies. He urged the United States Congress to pass a legislation that would expand health insurance coverage to such a point that the majority of the United States population would have access to health insurance.
It was also during Barack Obama’s first term as president that the rogue Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was reported to have been killed (on May 1, 2011), after a major covert operation that Barack authorized. Nicknamed “Operation Neptune,” the surgical raid successfully took out a long-observed Al Qaeda base that was said to be home to the notorious Taliban leader, including Osama Bin Laden himself, who was killed in the crossfire.
Although Barack’s actions and policies during his first term ensured the re-establishment and growth of the United States economy, a lot of controversies were still hurdled against him because of the “slow growth” that the Americans were experiencing, which many say were contrary to what Barack promised.
In spite of all the criticisms that were thrown at him every day, Barack continued his work, not letting the controversy stop him from achieving his plans and goals for a better United States. In a speech he made during a press conference, Barack described how despite the much needed work to be done in the country, the United States has at least steadily moved upward since he sat as President.
Barack also received criticism for his religious beliefs, as his parents were confirmed to be atheists, according to some who wrote articles about his family. However, during an interview with the famous Christian periodical “Christianity Today”, Barack confirmed that he was indeed a devout Christian, believing in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Originally, he was a member of the Trinity United Church pastored by Jeremiah Wright, but Obama distanced from the church in 2008 after some controversial statements were dropped by the famed pastor during an interview. Currently, Barack attends the Evergreen Chapel as his primary place of worship.
In both 2006 and 2008, Barack Obama won Grammy Awards for his books: “Dreams from My Father” and “The Audacity of Hope.” In 2009, Barack won the world-renowned Nobel Peace Prize for his extraordinary work in strengthening the relationship of the United States with other foreign nations and for his efforts in establishing better cooperation between peoples of all races.
Barack was re-elected as president during the 2012 elections, winning 332 electoral votes and 51% of the popular vote. This made Barack the second only person to ever win the majority of the popular vote in a re-election.
As a response to the numerous shootings frequently occur in the United States (the worst of which was the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on January 16, 2013), Barack also worked on improving gun control policies in the country.
Currently, President Barack Obama is continuing his campaign in the betterment of the United States, working with all of the government and private sectors and encouraging them to do their part in order for the country to rise back up and become the superpower that it once used to be - not just in terms of military power, but in every area. With the help and inspiration of his wife and daughters, as well as the encouragement he receives from his supporters, Barack goes on to fulfil the dream that he always said during his speeches: YES WE CAN.
Political Career History
- 1997-2004: Illinois State Senator from the 13th District
- 2005-2008: United States Senator from Illinois
- 2009-present: President of the United States
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- The United States Democratic Party
- Avoided Deforestation Partners
- Clinton Bush Haiti Fund
- Eracism Foundation
- It Gets Better Project
- Kids Wish Network
- National Park Foundation
- Neurofibromatosis, Inc.
- Peace Players International
- The Trevor Project
- UMPS CARE
- Various churches in the United States
Awards and Achievements
- 2006: Received the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
- 2008: Received the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album
- 2008: Named the Person of the Year by TIME Magazine
- 2008: Received the Daytime Emmy Award (Yes We Can)
- 2009: Received the British Book Award for Biography of the Year (Dreams from my Father)
- 2009: Won the Nobel Peace Prize
- 2012: Named the Person of the Year by TIME Magazine
- 2009: Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Notre Dame
- 2010: Honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Michigan