Barack Hussein Obama II born August 4, 1961 is an American politician who served as the 44th President of the United States from January 20, 2009, to January 20, 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, he was the first African American to assume the presidency and previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois (2005–2008).
Obama was born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, two years after the territory was admitted to the Union as the 50th state. Raised largely in Hawaii, he also spent one year of his childhood in the State of Washington and four years in Indonesia. After graduating from Columbia University in 1983, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In 1988, he enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating, he became a civil rights attorney and a professor, teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. He represented the 13th district for three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, when he ran for the U.S. Senate. He received national attention in 2004 with his March primary win, his well-received July Democratic National Convention keynote address, and his landslide November election to the Senate. In 2008, he was nominated for president a year after his campaign began and after a close primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. He was elected over Republican John McCain and was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, he was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, accepting the award with the caveat that he felt there were others “far more deserving of this honor than I.”
During his first two years in office, Obama signed many landmark bills into law. The main reforms were the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (often referred to as “Obamacare”, shortened as the “Affordable Care Act”), the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 served as economic stimulus amidst the Great Recession. After a lengthy debate over the national debt limit, he signed the Budget Control and the American Taxpayer Relief Acts. In foreign policy, he increased U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, reduced nuclear weapons with the United States–Russia New START treaty, and ended military involvement in the Iraq War. He ordered military involvement in Libya in opposition to Muammar Gaddafi; Gaddafi was killed by NATO-assisted forces, and he also ordered the military operation that resulted in the deaths of Osama bin Laden and suspected Yemeni Al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki.
After winning re-election by defeating Republican opponent Mitt Romney, Obama was sworn in for a second term in 2013. During this term, he promoted inclusiveness for LGBT Americans. His administration filed briefs that urged the Supreme Court to strike down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges); same-sex marriage was fully legalized in 2015 after the Court ruled that a same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional in Obergefell. He advocated for gun control in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, indicating support for a ban on assault weapons, and issued wide-ranging executive actions concerning climate change and immigration. In foreign policy, he ordered military intervention in Iraq in response to gains made by ISIL after the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, continued the process of ending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, promoted discussions that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change, initiated sanctions against Russia following the invasion in Ukraine and again after Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections, brokered a nuclear deal with Iran, and normalized U.S. relations with Cuba. Obama left office in January 2017 with a 60% approval rating and currently resides in Washington, D.C. Since then, his presidency has been favorably ranked by historians and the general public. He also had a high global approval rating, and the United States’ reputation saw a dramatic upward shift during his presidency.
Obama was born on August 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the only President who was born in Hawaii and the only President who was born outside of the contiguous 48 states. He was born to a white mother and a black father. His mother, Ann Dunham (1942–1995), was born in Wichita, Kansas; she was mostly of English descent, with some German, Irish, Scottish, Swiss, and Welsh ancestry. His father, Barack Obama Sr. (1936–1982), was a married Luo Kenyan man from Nyang’oma Kogelo. Obama’s parents met in 1960 in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his father was a foreign student on a scholarship.The couple married in Wailuku, Hawaii on February 2, 1961, six months before Obama was born.
In late August 1961 (only a few weeks after he was born), Barack and his mother moved to the University of Washington in Seattle, where they lived for a year. During that time, the elder Obama completed his undergraduate degree in economics in Hawaii, graduating in June 1962. He then left to attend graduate school on a scholarship at Harvard University, where he earned an M.A. in economics. Obama’s parents divorced in March 1964. Obama Sr. returned to Kenya in 1964, where he married for a third time. He visited his son in Hawaii only once, at Christmas time in 1971, before he was killed in an automobile accident in 1982, when Obama was 21 years old. Recalling his early childhood, Obama said, “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.” He described his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage.
From age six to ten, Obama attended local Indonesian-language schools: Sekolah Dasar Katolik Santo Fransiskus Asisi (St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Elementary School) for two years and Sekolah Dasar Negeri Menteng 01 (State Elementary School Menteng 01/Besuki Public School) for one and a half years, supplemented by English-language Calvert School homeschooling by his mother. As a result of those four years in Jakarta, he was able to speak Indonesian fluently as a child. During his time in Indonesia, Obama’s step-father taught him to be resilient and gave him “a pretty hardheaded assessment of how the world works”.
In 1971, Obama returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Dunham. He attended Punahou School— a private college preparatory school— with the aid of a scholarship from fifth grade until he graduated from high school in 1979. In his youth, Obama went by the nickname “Barry”. Obama lived with his mother and half-sister, Maya Soetoro, in Hawaii for three years from 1972 to 1975 while his mother was a graduate student in anthropology at the University of Hawaii. Obama chose to stay in Hawaii with his grandparents for high school at Punahou when his mother and half-sister returned to Indonesia in 1975 so his mother could begin anthropology field work. His mother spent most of the next two decades in Indonesia, divorcing Lolo in 1980 and earning a PhD degree in 1992, before dying in 1995 in Hawaii following unsuccessful treatment for ovarian and uterine cancer.
Obama later reflected on his years in Honolulu and wrote: “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.” Obama has also written and talked about using alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during his teenage years to “push questions of who I was out of my mind”. Obama was also a member of the “choom gang”, a self-named group of friends that spent time together and occasionally smoked marijuana.
The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President took place on January 20, 2009. In his first few days in office, Obama issued executive orders and presidential memoranda directing the U.S. military to develop plans to withdraw troops from Iraq. He ordered the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, but Congress prevented the closure by refusing to appropriate the required funds and preventing moving any Guantanamo detainee into the U.S. or to other countries. Obama reduced the secrecy given to presidential records. He also revoked President George W. Bush’s restoration of President Ronald Reagan’s Mexico City Policy prohibiting federal aid to international family planning organizations that perform or provide counseling about abortion.
Obama called for Congress to pass legislation reforming health care in the United States, a key campaign promise and a top legislative goal. He proposed an expansion of health insurance coverage to cover the uninsured, to cap premium increases, and to allow people to retain their coverage when they leave or change jobs. His proposal was to spend $900 billion over 10 years and include a government insurance plan, also known as the public option, to compete with the corporate insurance sector as a main component to lowering costs and improving quality of health care. It would also make it illegal for insurers to drop sick people or deny them coverage for pre-existing conditions, and require every American to carry health coverage. The plan also includes medical spending cuts and taxes on insurance companies that offer expensive plans.
Barack Obama’s presidency ended at noon on January 20, 2017, immediately following the inauguration of his Republican successor, Donald Trump. After the inauguration, Obama lifted off on Executive One, circled the White House, and flew to Joint Base Andrews. The family currently rents a house in Kalorama, Washington, D.C.
A 2018 survey of historians by the American Political Science Association ranked Obama the 8th-greatest American President. Obama gained 10 spots from the same survey in 2015 from the Brookings Institute that ranked Obama the 18th-greatest American President.
On March 2, 2017, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum awarded the annual Profile in Courage Award to Obama “for his enduring commitment to democratic ideals and elevating the standard of political courage.” On April 24, 2017, in his first public appearance out of office, Obama appeared at a seminar at the University of Chicago aimed at the engagement with a new generation as well as an appeal for their participation in politics. On May 4, 2017, three days ahead of the French presidential election, Obama publicly endorsed Emmanuel Macron: “He appeals to people’s hopes and not their fears, and I enjoyed speaking to Emmanuel recently to hear about his independent movement and his vision for the future of France.” Macron went on to win the election.
While in Berlin on May 25, 2017, Obama made a joint public appearance with Chancellor Angela Merkel where he stressed inclusion and for leaders to question themselves, Obama having been formally invited to Berlin while still in office as part of an effort to boost Merkel’s re-election campaign. Obama traveled to Kensington Palace in England and met with Prince Harry on May 27, 2017; Obama tweeted afterward that the two discussed their foundations and offering condolences in the wake of the Manchester Arena bombing that occurred five days prior.
On June 1, 2017, after President Trump announced his withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement, Obama released a statement disagreeing with the choice: “But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
In a 2006 interview, Obama highlighted the diversity of his extended family: “It’s like a little mini-United Nations”, he said. “I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher.” Obama has a half-sister with whom he was raised (Maya Soetoro-Ng, the daughter of his mother and her Indonesian second husband) and seven half-siblings from his Kenyan father’s family—six of them living. Obama’s mother was survived by her Kansas-born mother, Madelyn Dunham, until her death on November 2, 2008, two days before his election to the Presidency. Obama also has roots in Ireland; he met with his Irish cousins in Moneygall in May 2011. In Dreams from My Father, Obama ties his mother’s family history to possible Native American ancestors and distant relatives of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War. He also shares distant ancestors in common with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, among others.
Obama is a supporter of the Chicago White Sox, and he threw out the first pitch at the 2005 ALCS when he was still a senator. In 2009, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the All-Star Game while wearing a White Sox jacket. He is also primarily a Chicago Bears football fan in the NFL, but in his childhood and adolescence was a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and rooted for them ahead of their victory in Super Bowl XLIII 12 days after he took office as president. In 2011, Obama invited the 1985 Chicago Bears to the White House; the team had not visited the White House after their Super Bowl win in 1986 due to the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. He plays basketball, a sport he participated in as a member of his high school’s varsity team, and he is left-handed.
In 2005, the family applied the proceeds of a book deal and moved from a Hyde Park, Chicago condominium to a $1.6 million house (equivalent to $2.0 million in 2017) in neighboring Kenwood, Chicago. The purchase of an adjacent lot—and sale of part of it to Obama by the wife of developer, campaign donor and friend Tony Rezko—attracted media attention because of Rezko’s subsequent indictment and conviction on political corruption charges that were unrelated to Obama.
In December 2007, Money Magazine estimated Obama’s net worth at $1.3 million. Their 2009 tax return showed a household income of $5.5 million—up from about $4.2 million in 2007 and $1.6 million in 2005—mostly from sales of his books. On his 2010 income of $1.7 million, he gave 14% to non-profit organizations, including $131,000 to Fisher House Foundation, a charity assisting wounded veterans’ families, allowing them to reside near where the veteran is receiving medical treatments. Per his 2012 financial disclosure, Obama may be worth as much as $10 million.
In early 2010, Michelle spoke about her husband’s smoking habit and said that Barack had quit smoking.
On his 55th birthday, August 4, 2016, Obama penned an essay in Glamour, in which he described how his daughters and the presidency have made him a feminist.