President Barack Obama


44th President, 2009– Party Affiliation: Democrat

Chief 2008 Opponent: John McCain (Republican)


Where and when was he born?

Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Stanley Ann Durham (so named because her father wanted a son) and Barack Obama Sr. of Kenya on August 4, 1961.

Why was his mother’s first name Stanley?

His mother’s first name was Stanley because her father, Stanley Armour Dunham, had hoped to have a son. According to Obama biographer David Remnick in his book The Bridge (2009), she would say to people when they asked about her name: “Hi, I’m Stanley. My dad wanted a boy.”

What did his parents do for a living?

Barack Obama Sr. was a foreign student studying at the University of Hawaii, where he met a young Ann Dunham, who also was a student at the university. He and Dunham married, even though—unbeknownst to her—he still had a wife back home in Kenya. Obama left Dunham to pursue his doctorate degree at Harvard. He later worked in the Kenyan government as an economist. Ann Dunham worked as an anthropologist; she studied and lived extensively in Indonesia.

Where did Obama live as a youngster?

Obama lived in Hawaii for his first few years. However, his mother married an Indone- sian student named Lolo Soetoro, who was studying geology. The couple moved to Indonesia, so young Barry—as he was known then—spent several years in Jakarta. In 1971, he returned to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents—Stanley and Madelyn Dunham.

Does Barack have any siblings?

He does not have any full siblings, but he does have half-siblings. They are Maya Soe- toro-Ng, George Obama, David Ndesandjo (who died in a motorcycle accident), Mark Ndesandjo, Bernard Obama, Auma Obama, and Roy Obama.

What was his early education?

Barack Obama attended local public and private schools in Indonesia as a youngster, including St. Francis of Assisi School and then the Model Primary School Menteng I. When he moved back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents, he attended Punahou School—an exclusive private school. Obama played on his high school basketball team at Punahou but did not crack the starting lineup, as his state-winning championship team featured several college prospects.

Did he marry?

He married Michelle Robinson on October 3, 1992, in Chicago, Illinois.

Does he have any children?

Yes, Barack and Michelle Obama have two daughters: Malia Ann and Natasha.



Where did he go to college?

Obama first attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, California. He then transferred to Columbia University in 1981, where he majored in political science. He graduated in 1983.

After graduating college, what did he do?

After college, he first worked at Business International Corporation, a company that did the research for American firms conducting business overseas. Obama worked in the financial-services division. He then went to the New York Public Research Interest Group, an organization that works on college campuses to engage young people in activism and social justice. Obama met with students at City College and got them engaged in many public issues, ranging from public transportation to voter registration.

What did Obama do when he moved to Chicago?

After working in New York, Obama moved to Chicago to work for a community activist organizer named Jerry Kellman, who became one of Obama’s mentors. Kell-man led a group called the Calumet Community Religious Conference, which consist- ed of several churches working to improve surrounding neighborhoods. Kellman started the Developing Communities Project to do community activism. He realized he needed an African American community activist to help with his projects and he saw great potential in Obama. Obama worked under Kellman for three years from 1985 to 1988. He tried to improve public housing and help create a job training program.

Who was Obama’s first political hero in Chicago?

Obama’s political hero in Chicago was Harold Washington, who became the city’s first African American mayor in 1983 with a hard-fought victory over Richard Daley in the Democratic primary and Republican candidate Bernard Epton in the primary. Obama first lived in Chicago in 1985 when Washington was still mayor.


He left Chicago in 1988 to do what?

Obama left Chicago to attend Harvard Law School. Obama excelled at Harvard, an academic career that culminated in being named editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review, the most exclusive student legal publication in the nation. He made a favorable impression on many leading law professors, including Laurence Tribe, Martha Minow, and Charles Ogletree. He worked as a research assistant for Tribe.

At what law firm did Obama meet his future wife?

During one summer, Obama worked at the Chicago law firm Sidley Austin. There he worked with a young associate attorney named Michelle Robinson—his future wife.

At what university did he teach law classes?

Obama accepted a position at the University of Chicago Law School, first as a visiting fellow and then as a lecturer of law. He taught constitutional law at the school from 1992 until 2004, the last eight years as a senior lecturer. He also taught a seminar entitled “Current Issues in Racism and the Law.”

At what law firm did Obama work in civil rights?

Obama accepted a position with Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a smaller firm specializing in civil rights law. Judson Miner, who had worked for Mayor Harold Washing- ton, wanted Obama to come to the firm. Obama worked as an associate attorney for several years and then took an “of counsel” position.

What other project did Obama work on while an attorney at Davis, Miner?

He worked for Project Vote, a nonprofit group established in 1982 by Sandy Newman that sought to increase voter registration. Obama accepted Newman’s offer to run Project Vote in Illinois. He helped Project Vote register nearly 150,000 new voters.

What book did he publish in 1995?

Obama published Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance in July 1995, before he launched his political career. A literary agent in New York named Jane Dystel had contacted Obama in 1990, after reading about his editorship of the Harvard Law Review in a New York Times article. Dystel sold Obama’s book to Poseidon Press, a branch of Simon & Schuster, for an advance of $100,000. Obama received $50,000 on signing the contract. It took him several years to write the book. A new edition of the book was published after Obama hit the national political stage at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.


What was his first political position?

Obama won the election as Illinois state senator in 1996 under unusual circumstances. The incumbent, Alice Palmer, had initially decided not to seek reelection, choosing instead to run for a seat in the U.S. Congress. After losing to Jesse Jackson Jr., she applied to run for reelection for her State Senate seat. Obama’s campaign challenged whether Palmer and the other candidates had met the legal requirements, questioning whether they had acquired enough legitimate signatures. Election authorities determined that Palmer and other candidates did not have enough petition signatures, leaving Obama as the only candidate remaining. Palmer later endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2008. Obama won reelection to the Illinois State Senate in 1998 and 2002. He remained in the Illinois State Senate until winning a seat in the U.S. Senate.

What election did Obama lose in 2000?

Obama challenged four-term incumbent Bobby Lee Rush for the Democratic primary. He lost badly to the popular Rush, as Rush garnered 61percent of the vote to only 30 percent for Obama. Rush said during the campaign: “Barack is a person who read about the civil-rights protests and thinks he knows all about it.” Rush, who had served on the Chicago City Council when Harold Washington was the mayor, remains the only person to have defeated Obama in a public election.

Whom did he defeat to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2004?

Obama won the Democratic primary over numerous challenges. He was set to face Republican Jack Ryan. However, Ryan withdrew from the race after his divorce records became public. His ex-wife, actress Jeri Ryan, alleged that her husband made her have sex with him in sex clubs in New York, New Orleans, and Paris. Ryan withdrew and Alan Keyes accepted the Republican nomination. Obama won easily, capturing 70 percent of the vote.


When did Obama announce his run for the presidency?

Obama announced that he was running for president on February 10, 2007, in front of the Old State Capital Building in Springfield, Illinois. It was at this location that Abra- ham Lincoln gave his “House Divided” speech when he ran for the Senate in 1858.

Whom did Obama defeat for the 2008 Democratic primary?

Obama defeated several candidates in the Democratic primary: Hillary Clinton, senator from New York and wife of former president Bill Clinton; John Edwards, former U.S. senator from North Carolina; Joe Biden, U.S. senator from Delaware; Chris Dodd, U.S. senator from Connecticut; Mike Gravel, former U.S. senator from Alaska; Dennis Kucinich, U.S. Representative from Ohio; and Bill Richardson, governor of New Mexico. It turned out to be a contest between Obama and Clinton. He defeated her by garnering more than 2,300 delegates—more than the necessary 2,117. Clinton ran a tough race and obtained nearly 2,000 delegates herself.

Whom did Obama defeat to win the 2008 presidential election?

Obama defeated Republican John McCain. A longtime U.S. senator from Arizona, McCain presented a formidable foe. He survived nearly six years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and had served in the U.S. Senate since 1987. Nonetheless, Obama won the electoral vote count 365 to 173.


Which former Democratic primary challengers did Obama name to his cabinet?

Obama named Joe Biden as his vice president and Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state.

What was the first measure that Barack Obama signed into law?

The first bill that Obama signed into law was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extends the time period an individual has to file a suit under the Equal Pay Act. Congress had passed the law in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. (2007), when the Court ruled that Lily Ledbetter did not file her Equal Pay Act lawsuit in time. The Court had reasoned that the limitations period began when the pay agreement was made, not at each new paycheck.

With Ms. Ledbetter present, Obama signed the measure, and stated: “It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign—the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act—we are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserves a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.”

What law did he sign to try to stimulate the economy?

Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, colloquially called “the stimulus bill.” The law was designed to create jobs, pump money into the economy, and increase consumer spending. The law contains provisions on infrastructure investing, aid to the unemployed and low-income persons, and housing. Obama said upon signing the measure: “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I will sign today—a plan that meets the principles I laid out in January—is the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history.”

What hate crimes law did Obama sign?

In October 2009, Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. It expanded the existing federal hate-crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

”You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones but to break spirits—not only to inflict harm but to instill fear,” Obama said, “You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights—both from unjust laws and violent acts. And you understand how necessary this law continues to be.”

What major health care law has President Obama signed into law?

He signed into law the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act, which expands Medicaid coverage, prohibits insurance companies from denying care based on pre-existing illnesses, and supports medical research. There is a four-year window on the implementation of many of the law’s major measures.

”[The] bill I’m signing will set in motion reforms that generations of Americans have fought for and marched for and hungered to see,” Obama said upon signing the measure into law. “It will take four years to implement fully many of these reforms because we need to implement them responsibly.”

Who were his U.S. Supreme Court appointees?

Obama has nominated two associate justices to the U.S. Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Sotomayor, who served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and on a federal district court in New York, became the nation’s first Latino justice in Court history. The Senate confirmed her by a vote of sixty-eight to thirty-one.

Kagan, formerly Obama’s solicitor general, became the fourth woman in Supreme Court history, following after Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Sotomayor. The Senate confirmed her by a vote of sixty-three to thirty-seven.

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