Profile of President Barack Obama

Smiling Barack Obama sits beside an American flag and speaks on civic engagement at the University of Chicago

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On November 4, 2008, 47-year-old Barack Obama was elected to be the 44th President of the United States, after a hard-fought two-year presidential campaign. He was sworn in as President on January 20, 2009.

Fast Facts: Barack Obama

  • Full Name: Barack Hussein Obama, II
  • Known For: 44th President of the United States, in office January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017
  • Born: August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Parents: Barack Obama Sr. and Ann Dunham
  • Spouse: Married on October 18, 1992 to Michelle Robinson, an attorney and Chicago native
  • Children: Malia and Sasha
  • Education: B.A. in international relations, 1983, Columbia University. J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was the first black Editor of the Harvard Law Review
  • Major Accomplishments: First African American president, Nobel Peace Price (2009), Profile in Courage Award (2017), best-selling author
  • Fun Fact: Obama is a Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bears fan, and an avid basketball player

Early Life

Born Barack Hussein Obama, Jr, his father was a Kenya-born Harvard-educated economist and his mother was Ann Dunham, a Caucasian anthropologist. He was 2 years old when his father left the family.

His father (deceased in 1982) returned to Kenya and only saw his son once more. His mother remarried and moved Barack to Indonesia. He returned to Hawaii at age 10 to live with his maternal grandparents. He graduated from the respected Punahou School with honors. As a teenager, he scooped ice cream at Baskin-Robbins, and has admitted to dabbling in marijuana and cocaine. His mother died of cancer in 1995.

Political Timeline

Before entering politics, Obama worked as a community organizer and a civil rights attorney. In addition, Obama was a Senior Lecturer in Constitutional Law at University of Chicago Law School. In the early 90s, he aggressively organized one of the largest voter registration drives in Chicago history to help Bill Clinton's 1992 election.

Obama (D-IL) was elected to the U.S. Senate on November 2, 2004, after serving seven years as an Illinois state senator. In 2004, Sen. Obama also signed a $1.9 million deal to author three books. The first, The Audacity of Hope, discusses his political convictions. His 1995 autobiography was a bestseller.

Barack Obama's voting record and stances as US Senator and Illinois State Senator reflect a "practical, common sense progressive" thinker who emphasizes increased support for teachers, college affordability, and restoration of meaningful federal support of veterans.

As a Senator, Obama's areas of special legislative interest were in support for working families, public education, health care, economic growth, and job creation, and ending the Iraq War. As an Illinois state senator, he worked passionately for ethics reforms and criminal justice reform.

Obama first rose to national prominence when he delivered an inspiring keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. On February 10, 2007, Barack Obama declared his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic nomination for the presidency.

On June 3, 2008, Obama accumulated enough Democratic convention delegates votes to become the presumptive party nominee for the presidential race.

On October 9, 2009, the Nobel Committee announced that President Barack Obama had been awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Obama Persona

Barack Obama is an independent-minded leader with an even-keel temperament, charismatic speaking skills and a knack for consensus-building. He's also a talented, introspective writer.

His values are strongly shaped by his expertise as a Constitutional law professor and civil rights attorney, and by Christianity. While private by nature, Obama mingles easily with others, but is most comfortable addressing large crowds. He is known for being unafraid to speak and hear hard truths when necessary.

Obama was named by Time magazine in 2005, 2007, and 2008 as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Memorable Quotes

"You can't have No Child Left Behind if you leave the money behind."
"I do agree that the Democrats have been intellectually lazy in failing to take the core ideals of the Democratic Party and adapting them to circumstances.... It's not just a matter of sticking in a quote from the Bible into a stock speech."
"There has yet to be a serious conversation about health care on the floor of the United States Senate."
"As parents, we need to find the time and the energy to step in and find ways to help our kids love reading. We can read to them, talk to them about what they're reading and make time for this by turning off the TV ourselves. Libraries can help parents with this. Knowing the constraints we face from busy schedules and a TV culture, we need to think outside the box here - to dream big like we always have in America.
Right now, children come home from their first doctor's appointment with an extra bottle of formula. But imagine if they came home with their first library card or their first copy of Goodnight Moon? What if it was as easy to get a book as it is to rent a DVD or pick up McDonalds? What if instead of a toy in every Happy Meal, there was a book? What if there were portable libraries that rolled through parks and playgrounds like ice cream trucks? Or kiosks in stores where you could borrow books?
What if during the summer, when kids often lose much of the reading progress they've made during the year, every child had a list of books they had to read and talk about and an invitation to a summer reading club at the local library? Libraries have a special role to play in our knowledge economy."

— June 27, 2005 Speech to the American Library Association