Barack Obama Origins Essay Outline

Barack Obama Biography

Barack Obama

© Nancy Kaszerman/Zuma/Corbis.

August 4, 1961. • Honolulu, Hawaii

Politician

Illinois voters sent a Democratic newcomer, Barack Obama, to one of the state's two seats in the U.S. Senate in 2004. Obama's landslide victory in Illinois was significant on several fronts. Firstly, he became the Senate's only African American lawmaker when he was sworn into office in January 2005, and just the third black U.S. senator to serve there since the 1880s. Moreover, Obama's political supporters came from a diverse range of racial and economic backgrounds, which is still relatively rare in American electoral politics—traditionally, black candidates have not done very well in voting precincts where predominantly non-minority voters go to the polls. Even before his Election Day victory, Obama emerged as the new star of the Democratic Party after delivering the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts that summer. His stirring speech, in which he urged a united, not a divided, American union, prompted political commentators to predict he might become the first African American elected to the White House.

Born in Hawaii

Obama is actually of mixed heritage. He was born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii, where his parents had met at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus. His father, Barack Sr., was from Kenya and entered the University of Hawaii as its first-ever student from an African country. He was a member of Kenya's Luo ethnic group, many of whom played a key role in that country's struggle for independence in the 1950s. Obama's mother, Ann Durham, was originally from Kansas, where some of her ancestors had been anti-slavery activists in the 1800s.

The marriage between Obama's parents was a short-lived one, however. In the early 1960s, interracial relationships were still quite rare in many parts of America, and even technically illegal in some states. The Durhams were accepting of Barack Sr., but his family in Kenya had a harder time with the idea of his marryinga white American woman. When Obama was two years old they divorced, and his father left Hawaii to enter Harvard University to earn a Ph.D. in economics. The two Baracks met again only once, when Obama was ten, though they did write occasionally. Barack Sr. eventually returned to Kenya and died in a car accident there in the early 1980s.

Obama's mother remarried a man from Indonesia who worked in the oil industry, and when Obama was six they moved there. The family lived near the capital of Jakarta, where his half-sister Maya was born. At the age of ten, Obama returned to Hawaii and lived with his maternal grandparents; later his mother and sister returned as well. Called "Barry" by his family and friends, he was sent to a prestigious private academy in Honolulu, the Punahou School, where he was one of just a handful of black students. Obama recalled feeling conflicted

"In no other country on earth is my story even possible."

about his mixed heritage in his teen years. Outside the house, he was considered African American, but the only family he knew was his white one at home. For a time, he loafed and let his grades slip; instead of studying, he spent hours on the basketball court with his friends, and has admitted that there was a time when he experimented with drugs, namely marijuana and cocaine. "I was affected by the problems that I think a lot of young African American teens have," he reflected in an interview with Kenneth Meeks for Black Enterprise. "They feel that they need to rebel against society as a way of proving their blackness. And often, this results in self-destructive behavior."


Excels at Harvard Law School

Obama graduated from Punahou and went on to Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he decided to get serious about his studies. Midway through, he transferred to the prestigious Columbia University in New York City. He also began to explore his African roots and not long after his father's death traveled to meet his relatives in Kenya for the first time. After he earned his undergraduate degree in political science, he became a community organizer in Harlem—but quickly realized he could not afford to live in the city with a job that paid so little. Instead, he moved to Chicago to work for a church-based social-services organization there. The group was active on the city's South Side, one of America's most impoverished urban communities.

Feeling it was time to move on, Obama applied to and was accepted at Harvard Law School, one of the top three law schools in the United States. In 1990, he was elected president of the Harvard Law Review journal. He was the first African American to serve in the post, which virtually assured him of any career path he chose after graduation. But Obama declined the job offers from top Manhattan law firms, with their starting salaries that neared the $100,000-a-year range, in order to return to Chicago and work for a small firm that specialized in civil-rights law. This was an especially unglamorous and modest-paying field of law, for it involved defending the poor and the marginalized members of society in housing and employment discrimination cases.

Obama also had another reason for returning to Chicago: During his Harvard Law School years, he took a job as a summer associate at a Chicago firm, and the attorney assigned to mentor him was also a Harvard Law graduate, Michelle Robinson. The two began dating and were married in 1992. Robinson came from a working-class black family and grew up on the South Side; her brother had excelled at basketball and went to Princeton University, and she followed him there for her undergraduate degree. Obama also considered Chicago a place from which he could launch a political career, and he became active in a number of projects in addition to his legal cases at work and another job he held teaching classes at the University of Chicago Law School. He worked on a local voter-registration drive, for example, that registered thousands of black voters in Chicago; the effort was said to have helped Bill Clinton (1946–) win the state in his successful bid for the White House in 1992.


Writes autobiography

Obama's time at the Law Review had netted him an offer to write a book. The result was Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, published by Times Books in 1995. The work merited some brief but mostly complimentary reviews in the press. Obama, however, was not hoping for a career as an author: he decided to run for a seat in the Illinois state senate. He ran from his home district of Hyde Park, the neighborhood surrounding the elite University of Chicago on the South Side. Though Hyde Park is similar to many American college towns, with well-kept homes and upscale businesses, the surrounding neighborhood is a more traditionally urban one, with higher levels of both crime and unemployment.

Obama won that 1996 election and went on to an impressive career in the Senate chambers in Springfield, the state capital. He championed a bill that gave tax breaks to low-income families, worked to expand a state health-insurance program for uninsured children, and wrote a bill that required law enforcement officials in every community to begin keeping track of their traffic stops and noting the race of the driver. This controversial bill, which passed thanks to Obama's determined effort to find support from both political parties in the state Senate, was aimed at reducing incidents of alleged racial profiling, or undue suspicion turned upon certain minority or ethnic groups by police officers on patrol. He also won passage of another important piece of legislation that required police to videotape homicide confessions.

Obama made his first bid for U.S. Congress in 2000, when he challenged a well-known black politician and former Chicago City Council member, Bobby Rush (1946–), for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rush was a former

Black Senators in U.S. History

Barack Obama became the fifth African American senator in U.S. history in 2005. He was only the third elected since the end of the Reconstruction, the period immediately following the end of the American Civil War (1861–65; a war between the Union [the North], who were opposed to slavery, and the Confederacy [the South], who were in favor of slavery). During the Reconstruction Era, federal troops occupied the defeated Southern states and, along with transplanted government officials, one of their duties was to make sure that newly freed slaves were allowed to vote fairly and freely in elections.

Before 1913 and the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, members of the U.S. Senate were not directly elected by voters in most states, however. Instead they were elected by legislators in the state assemblies, or appointed by the governor. Still, because of the Reconstruction Era reforms, many blacks were elected to the state legislatures that sent senators to Washington. In 1870, the Mississippi state legislature made Hiram Rhoades Revels (1827–1901) the state's newest senator and the first black ever to serve in the U.S. Senate. Revels was a free-born black from North Carolina and a distinguished minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church who had raised two black regiments that fought on the Union side during the Civil War. He served in the Senate for one year.

In 1875, Mississippi lawmakers sent Blanche K. Bruce (1841–1898) to the U.S. Senate. A former slave from Virginia, Bruce was a teacher and founder of the first school for blacks in the state of Missouri. After the end of the Civil War, he headed south to take part in the Reconstruction Era. He won election to local office as a Republican, and in 1875 lawmakers sent him to the U.S. Senate. He served the full six-year term. In 1881, he was appointed a U.S. Treasury official, and his signature was the first from an African American to appear on U.S. currency.

Nearly a hundred years passed before another African American was elected to the Senate, and this came by statewide vote. Edward William Brooke III (1919–), a Republican from Massachusetts, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1966 and served two terms. In 1992 another Illinois Democrat, Carol Moseley Braun (1947–), became the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Barack Obama won his bid for the Senate by a large margin, taking 70 percent of the Illinois vote, thus becoming one of the youngest members of the U.S. Senate when he was sworn into office in January 2005.

© Brooks Kraft/Corbis.

1960s radical who had founded the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary black nationalist party of the era. Rush's campaign stressed his experience and questioned Obama's support base among wealthier white voters in the city, and Obama was solidly defeated in the primary, winning just 30 percent of the vote.


Enters Senate race

A few years later, Obama decided to run for a seat in the U.S. Senate when Illinois Republican Peter G. Fitzgerald (1960–) announced he would retire. Some of Obama's supporters thought he was aiming too high, but this time he beat out six other Democratic challengers in the primary with 53 percent of the vote. Suddenly, state and even national Democratic Party leaders began taking him and his Senate campaign seriously. In the primary, he had managed to do what few African American politicians had ever done: record an impressive number of votes from precincts that had a predominantly white population.

In his 2004 Senate race, Obama faced a tough Republican challenger, however: a former investment banker turned parochial-school (school supported by a church parish) teacher named Jack Ryan (1960–). Ryan was blessed with television-actor good looks and had even once been married to Boston Public star Jeri Ryan (1968–). But Jack Ryan was, like one of Obama's earlier primary opponents, derailed by allegations about his personal life. Chicago news outlets publicized Ryan's divorce documents from 1999, which revealed one or two incidents that seemed distinctly at odds with a Republican "family values" platform. Ryan dropped out of the race, but the Republican National Party quickly brought in talk-show host Alan Keyes (1950–), who changed his home address from Maryland to Illinois to run against Obama. Keyes was a conservative black Republican who twice had made a bid for the White House, but he worried some voters with his strong statements against homosexuality.

Obama, by contrast, was winning public-opinion polls among every demographic group that pollsters asked. He was even greeted with rock-star type cheers in rural Illinois farm towns. Many of these small-town voters recognized that the manufacturing operations of many U.S. industries were rapidly being moved overseas thanks to free-trade agreements that eliminated tariffs (taxes) and trade barriers between the United States and Mexico; another free-trade agreement was in the works for Central America. The result was a dramatic decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs. Obama's campaign pledged to stop the outsourcing of such jobs to overseas facilities. But Obama suddenly found himself in the national spotlight, when John Kerry (1943–), expected to win the Democratic Party's nomination for president at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004, asked Obama to deliver the convention's keynote address. The keynote speech is expected to set the tone of the political campaign, and those chosen to give face tremendous expectations.

"That makes my life poorer"

Obama did not disappoint that evening. His speech, which he wrote himself and titled "The Audacity of Hope," was stirring and eloquent, and quickly dubbed by political analysts to be one of the best convention keynote addresses of the modern era. He earned several standing ovations during it, and Obama's confident, assured tone was broadcast to the rest of the nation. Cameras occasionally scanned the crowd to show tears on the faces of delegates. Obama praised Kerry's values and experience, and he reminded delegates and the national television audience that the country's strength came from unity, not division—that Americans had created a thriving nation out of many diverse ethnic groups and ideologies in its 228-year history. Economic policies aimed at providing a better life for everyone, not just a privileged few, was the American way, he said. "If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for her prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandmother," he told the crowd. "If there's an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties. It's that fundamental belief—I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper—that makes this country work."

Obama's speech, analysts said almost immediately, struck a hopeful, healing tone for a drastically divided nation and what had become a bitter, insult-heavy presidential contest. Obama, asserted Time 's Amanda Ripley, "described a country that America wants very badly to be: a country not pockmarked by racism and fear or led by politicians born into privilege and coached into automatons [robotic behavior]." Others called it one of the best political speeches of the century. Some newspaper and magazine editorial writers predicted that the rising star from Illinois would emerge a strong leader in the Democratic Party over the next few years, and could even run for president in 2012 or 2016.

Obama won his bid for the Senate a few months later by a large margin, taking 70 percent of the Illinois vote against just 27 percent for Keyes. At just forty-three years old, he became one of the youngest members of the U.S. Senate when he was sworn into office in January 2005. The first major piece of legislation he introduced came two months later with the Higher Education Opportunity through Pell Grant Expansion Act of 2005 (HOPE Act). Its goal was increase the maximum amount that the federal government provides each student who receives need-based financial aid for college. In the 1970s and 1980s, Pell grants often covered nearly the entire tuition cost— excluding room, board, and books—at some state universities. But because they had failed to keep pace with risingtuition costs by 2005 they covered, on average, just 23 percent of the tuition at state schools.

Obama and his wife have two young daughters, Malia and Sasha. Instead of moving to Washington, Michelle Robinson Obama remained in Chicago indefinitely with the children and kept her job as a hospital executive. Television personality Oprah Winfrey (1954–) interviewed Obama not long after the Democratic National Convention and asked him how he became such an eloquent public speaker. He replied that he knew from an early age that he had a career in the persuasive arts—be they legal or political—ahead of him. "I always knew I could express myself," he said in O, The Oprah Magazine. "I knew I could win some arguments. I knew I could get my grandparents and mom frustrated!"


For More Information

Books

Obama, Barack. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2004.


Periodicals

Alter, Jonathan. "'The Audacity of Hope.'" Newsweek (December 27, 2004): p. 74.

Finnegan, William. "The Candidate." New Yorker (May 31, 2004).

Meeks, Kenneth. "Favorite Son." Black Enterprise (October 2004): p. 88.

"Oprah Talks to Barack Obama." O, The Oprah Magazine (November 2004): p. 248.

Ripley, Amanda. "Obama's Ascent." Time (November 15, 2004): p. 74.

Web Sites

Barack Obama, U.S. Senator from Illinois. http://obama.senate.gov/ (accessed on August 23, 2005).

"Rising Star: Senate Candidate Barack Obama Delivers Rousing Keynote at DNC." Democracy Now. http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=04/07/28/1313225 (accessed on August 23, 2005).

Nooyi, Indra K Okafor, Emeka

"Barack" and "Obama" redirect here. For other uses, see Barack (disambiguation) and Obama (disambiguation).

Barack Obama
44th President of the United States
In office
January 20, 2009 – January 20, 2017
Vice PresidentJoe Biden
Preceded byGeorge W. Bush
Succeeded byDonald Trump
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
January 3, 2005 – November 16, 2008
Preceded byPeter Fitzgerald
Succeeded byRoland Burris
Member of the Illinois Senate
from the 13th district
In office
January 8, 1997 – November 4, 2004
Preceded byAlice Palmer
Succeeded byKwame Raoul
Personal details
BornBarack Hussein Obama II
(1961-08-04) August 4, 1961 (age 56)
Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Spouse(s)Michelle Robinson (m. 1992)
Children
Parents
RelativesSee Family of Barack Obama
Education
AwardsNobel Peace Prize (2009)
Profile in Courage Award (2017)
Signature
Website

Barack Hussein Obama II ( ( listen);[1] born August 4, 1961) is an American politician who served as the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. The first African American to assume the presidency, he was previously the junior United States Senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008. He served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 until 2004.

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, Obama also spent one year of his childhood in Washington State and four years in Indonesia. After graduating from Columbia University in New York City in 1983, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In 1988 Obama enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he became a civil rights attorney and professor, and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004. Obama represented the 13th District for three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, when he ran for the U.S. Senate. Obama received national attention in 2004 with his unexpected March primary win, his well-received July Democratic National Conventionkeynote address, and his landslide November election to the Senate. In 2008, Obama was nominated for president a year after his campaign began and after a close primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. He was elected over RepublicanJohn McCain and was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, Obama 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, Obama signed the Budget Control and the American Taxpayer Relief Acts. In foreign policy, Obama 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 death of Osama bin Laden.

After winning re-election by defeating Republican opponent Mitt Romney, Obama was sworn in for a second term in 2013. During his second term, Obama 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). Obama advocated for gun control in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and issued wide-ranging executive actions concerning climate change and immigration. In foreign policy, Obama 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.

Early life and career

Main article: Early life and career of Barack Obama

Obama was born on August 4, 1961,[2] at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu, Hawaii.[3][4][5] He is the only President who was born in Hawaii[6] and the only President who was born outside of the contiguous 48 states.[7] 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,[8] with some German, Irish, Scottish, Swiss, and Welsh ancestry.[9] 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 scholarship.[10][11] The couple married in Wailuku, Hawaii on February 2, 1961, six months before Obama was born.[12][13]

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.[14] 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,[15] before he was killed in an automobile accident in 1982, when Obama was 21 years old.[16] 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."[11] He described his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage.[17]

In 1963, Dunham met Lolo Soetoro at the University of Hawaii; he was an IndonesianEast–West Centergraduate student in geography. The couple married on Molokai on March 15, 1965.[18] After two one-year extensions of his J-1 visa, Lolo returned to Indonesia in 1966. His wife and stepson followed sixteen months later in 1967. The family initially lived in a Menteng Dalam neighborhood in the Tebet subdistrict of south Jakarta. From 1970, they lived in a wealthier neighborhood in the Menteng subdistrict of central Jakarta.[19]

Education

From age six to ten, Obama attended local Indonesian-language schools: Sekolah Katolik Santo Fransiskus Asisi (St. Francis of AssisiCatholic School) for two years and Sekolah Dasar Negeri Menteng 01 (Besuki Public School) for one and a half years, supplemented by English-language Calvert School homeschooling by his mother.[20][21] As a result of those four years in Jakarta, he was able to speak Indonesian fluently as a child.[22][23][24] 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".[25]

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.[26] In his youth, Obama went by the nickname "Barry".[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] 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.[30]

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."[31] 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".[32] Obama was also a member of the "choom gang", a self-named group of friends that spent time together and occasionally smoked marijuana.[33][34]

After graduating from high school in 1979, Obama moved to Los Angeles to attend Occidental College. In February 1981, Obama made his first public speech, calling for Occidental to participate in the disinvestment from South Africa in response to that nation's policy of apartheid.[35] In mid-1981, Obama traveled to Indonesia to visit his mother and half-sister Maya, and visited the families of college friends in Pakistan and India for three weeks.[35] Later in 1981, he transferred as a junior to Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialty in international relations[36] and in English literature[37] and lived off-campus on West 109th Street.[38] He graduated with a BA degree in 1983 and worked for about a year at the Business International Corporation, where he was a financial researcher and writer,[39][40] then as a project coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group on the City College of New York campus for three months in 1985.[41][42][43]

Family and personal life

Main article: Family of Barack Obama

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."[44] 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.[45] Obama's mother was survived by her Kansas-born mother, Madelyn Dunham,[46] until her death on November 2, 2008,[47] 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.[48] 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.[49]

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.[50] In 2009, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the All-Star Game while wearing a White Sox jacket.[51] 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.[52] 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.[53] He plays basketball, a sport he participated in as a member of his high school's varsity team[54] and he is left-handed.[55]

Obama lived with anthropologist Sheila Miyoshi Jager while he was a community organizer in Chicago in the 1980s.[56] He proposed to her twice, but both Jager and her parents turned him down.[56][57] The relationship was only made public in May 2017, several months after Obama's two-term presidency had ended.[57]

In June 1989, Obama met Michelle Robinson when he was employed as a summer associate at the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin.[58] Robinson was assigned for three months as Obama's adviser at the firm, and she joined him at several group social functions but declined his initial requests to date.[59] They began dating later that summer, became engaged in 1991, and were married on October 3, 1992.[60] The couple's first daughter, Malia Ann, was born in 1998,[61] followed by a second daughter, Natasha ("Sasha"), in 2001.[62] The Obama daughters attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. When they moved to Washington, D.C., in January 2009, the girls started at the Sidwell Friends School.[63] The Obamas have two Portuguese Water Dogs; the first, a male named Bo, was a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy.[64] In 2013, Bo was joined by Sunny, a female.[65]

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 in neighboring Kenwood, Chicago.[66] 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.[67]

In December 2007, Money Magazine estimated Obama's net worth at $1.3 million.[68] 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.[69][70] 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.[71][72] Per his 2012 financial disclosure, Obama may be worth as much as $10 million.[73]

In early 2010, Michelle spoke about her husband's smoking habit and said that Barack had quit smoking.[74][75]

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.[76][77][78]

Religious views

Obama is a Protestant Christian whose religious views developed in his adult life.[79] He wrote in The Audacity of Hope that he "was not raised in a religious household". He described his mother, raised by non-religious parents, as being detached from religion, yet "in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known." He described his father as a "confirmed atheist" by the time his parents met, and his stepfather as "a man who saw religion as not particularly useful." Obama explained how, through working with black churches as a community organizer while in his twenties, he came to understand "the power of the African-American religious tradition to spur social change."[80]

In January 2008, Obama told Christianity Today: "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life."[81] On September 27, 2010, Obama released a statement commenting on his religious views saying, "I'm a Christian by choice. My family didn't – frankly, they weren't folks who went to church every week. And my mother was one of the most spiritual people I knew, but she didn't raise me in the church. So I came to my Christian faith later in life, and it was because the precepts of Jesus Christ spoke to me in terms of the kind of life that I would want to lead – being my brothers' and sisters' keeper, treating others as they would treat me."[82][83]

Obama met Trinity United Church of Christ pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright in October 1987 and became a member of Trinity in 1992.[84] During Obama's first presidential campaign in May 2008, he resigned from Trinity after some of Wright's statements were criticized.[85] Since moving to Washington, D.C., in 2009, the Obama family has attended several Protestant churches, including Shiloh Baptist Church and St. John's Episcopal Church, as well as Evergreen Chapel at Camp David, but the members of the family do not attend church on a regular basis.[86][87][88]

Law career

Community organizer and Harvard Law School

Two years after graduating from Columbia, Obama was back in Chicago when he was hired as director of the Developing Communities Project, a church-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes in Roseland, West Pullman, and Riverdale on Chicago's South Side. He worked there as a community organizer from June 1985 to May 1988.[42][89] He helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization in Altgeld Gardens.[90] Obama also worked as a consultant and instructor for the Gamaliel Foundation, a community organizing institute.[91] In mid-1988, he traveled for the first time in Europe for three weeks and then for five weeks in Kenya, where he met many of his paternal relatives for the first time.[92][93]

Obama entered Harvard Law School in the fall of 1988, living in nearby Somerville, Massachusetts.[95] He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year,[96] president of the journal in his second year,[90][97] and research assistant to the constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe while at Harvard for two years.[98] During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as an associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.[99] After graduating with a JD degree magna cum laude[100] from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago.[96] Obama's election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review gained national media attention[90][97] and led to a publishing contract and advance for a book about race relations,[101] which evolved into a personal memoir. The manuscript was published in mid-1995 as Dreams from My Father.[101]

Chicago Law School and civil rights attorney

In 1991, Obama accepted a two-year position as Visiting Law and Government Fellow at the University of Chicago Law School to work on his first book.[101][102] He then taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years, first as a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and then as a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004.[103]

From April to October 1992, Obama directed Illinois's Project Vote, a voter registration campaign with ten staffers and seven hundred volunteer registrars; it achieved its goal of registering 150,000 of 400,000 unregistered African Americans in the state, leading Crain's Chicago Business to name Obama to its 1993 list of "40 under Forty" powers to be.[104]

He joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a 13-attorney law firm specializing in civil rights litigation and neighborhood economic development, where he was an associate for three years from 1993 to 1996, then of counsel from 1996 to 2004. In 1994, he was listed as one of the lawyers in Buycks-Roberson v. Citibank Fed. Sav. Bank, 94 C 4094 (N.D. Ill.).[105] This class action lawsuit was filed in 1994 with Selma Buycks-Roberson as lead plaintiff and alleged that Citibank Federal Savings Bank had engaged in practices forbidden under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the Fair Housing Act.[106] The case was settled out of court.[107] Final Judgment was issued on May 13, 1998, with Citibank Federal Savings Bank agreeing to pay attorney fees.[108] His law license became inactive in 2007.[109][110]

From 1994 to 2002, Obama served on the boards of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago—which in 1985 had been the first foundation to fund the Developing Communities Project—and of the Joyce Foundation.[42] He served on the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995 to 2002, as founding president and chairman of the board of directors from 1995 to 1999.[42]

Legislative career

Illinois State Senator (1997–2004)

Main article: Illinois Senate career of Barack Obama

Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, succeeding Democratic State Senator Alice Palmer from Illinois's 13th District, which, at that time, spanned Chicago South Side neighborhoods from Hyde Park–Kenwood south to South Shore and west to Chicago Lawn.[111] Once elected, Obama gained bipartisan support for legislation that reformed ethics and health care laws.[112] He sponsored a law that increased tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for childcare.[113] In 2001, as co-chairman of the bipartisan Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, Obama supported Republican Governor Ryan's payday loan regulations and predatory mortgage lending regulations aimed at averting home foreclosures.[114]

He was reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998, defeating Republican Yesse Yehudah in the general election, and was re-elected again in 2002.[115] In 2000, he lost a Democratic primary race for Illinois's 1st congressional district in the United States House of Representatives to four-term incumbent Bobby Rush by a margin of two to one.[116]

In January 2003, Obama became chairman of the Illinois Senate's Health and Human Services Committee when Democrats, after a decade in the minority, regained a majority.[117] He sponsored and led unanimous, bipartisan passage of legislation to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they detained, and legislation making Illinois the first state to mandate videotaping of homicide interrogations.[113][118] During his 2004 general election campaign for the U.S. Senate, police representatives credited Obama for his active engagement with police organizations in enacting death penalty reforms.[119] Obama resigned from the Illinois Senate in November 2004 following his election to the U.S. Senate.[120]

2004 U.S. Senate campaign

Main article: United States Senate election in Illinois, 2004

In May 2002, Obama commissioned a poll to assess his prospects in a 2004 U.S. Senate race. He created a campaign committee, began raising funds, and lined up political media consultant David Axelrod by August 2002. Obama formally announced his candidacy in January 2003.[121]

Obama was an early opponent of the George W. Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq.[122] On October 2, 2002, the day President Bush and Congress agreed on the joint resolution authorizing the Iraq War,[123] Obama addressed the first high-profile Chicago anti-Iraq War rally,[124] and spoke out against the war.[125] He addressed another anti-war rally in March 2003 and told the crowd that "it's not too late" to stop the war.[126]

Decisions by Republican incumbent Peter Fitzgerald and his Democratic predecessor Carol Moseley Braun to not participate in the election resulted in wide-open Democratic and Republican primary contests involving fifteen candidates.[127] In the March 2004 primary election, Obama won in an unexpected landslide—which overnight made him a rising star within the national Democratic Party

Obama posing in the Green Room of the White House with wife Michelle and daughters Sasha and Malia, 2009
State Senator Obama and others celebrate the naming of a street in Chicago after ShoreBank co-founder Milton Davis in 1998
County results of the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois. Obama won the counties in blue.
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