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Barack Obama: About

Barack Obama


Who is Barack Obama?

Barack Obama served as the 44th President of the United States. His story is the American story — values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.

When Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, he became the first African American to hold the office. The framers of the Constitution always hoped that our leadership would not be limited to Americans of wealth 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 both were 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 School on scholarship.

In his memoir Dreams from My Father (1995), Obama describes the complexities of discovering his identity in adolescence. After two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he transferred to Columbia University, where he studied political science and international relations. Following graduation in 1983, Obama worked in New York City, then became a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, coordinating with churches to improve housing conditions and set up job-training programs in a community hit hard by steel mill closures. In 1988, he went to Harvard Law School, where he attracted national attention as the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. Returning to Chicago, he joined a small law firm specializing in civil rights.

In 1992, Obama married Michelle Robinson, a lawyer 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 U.S. Senate in 2004. At the Democratic National Convention that summer, he delivered a much acclaimed keynote address. Some pundits instantly pronounced him a future president, but most did not expect it to happen for some time. Nevertheless, in 2008 he was elected over Arizona Senator John McCain by 365 to 173 electoral votes.

As an incoming president, Obama faced many challenges—an economic collapse, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continuing menace of terrorism. Inaugurated before an estimated crowd of 1.8 million people, 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 signature bills: an omnibus bill to stimulate the economy, legislation making health care more accessible and affordable, and legislation reforming the nation’s financial institutions. Obama also pressed for a fair pay act for women, financial reform legislation, and efforts for consumer protection. In 2009, Obama became the fourth president to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Continue reading from The White House

From our Collection

Link to A Promised Land by Barack Obama in the Catalog
Link to The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama in the Catalog
Link to Barack Before Obama: Before the Presidency by David Katz in the Catalog
Link to Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama in the Catalog
Link to Obama: An Oral History, 2009-2017 by Brian Abrams in the Catalog
Link to Obama: An Intimate Portrait by Pete Souza in the Catalog
Link to Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama by David J Garrow in the Catalog
Link to The Legacy of Barack Obama: A Consequential President by Michael D'Antonio in the Catalog
Link to Audacity: How Barack Obama Defied His Critics and Created a Legacy That Will Prevail by Jonathan Chait in the Catalog
Link to Barack Obama: The Story by David Maraniss in the Catalog
Barack Obama: His Essential Wisdom edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi in Freading
Link to Who Thought This Was A Good Idea?: And Other Questions You Should Have Answers To When You Work in the White House by Alyssa Mastromonaco in the Catalog
Link to The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson in the Catalog
Link to Barack and Joe by Steven Levingston in the Catalog
Link to Obama: The Call of History by Peter Baker in the Catalog
Link to Barack Obama: The Comic Book Biography by Jeff Mariotte in Hoopla
Link to Obama: From Promise to Power by David Mendell in the Catalog