What Are Some Notable Facts About Barack Obama?

By , Staff Writer
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In 2008, Barack Hussein Obama launched into the history books as the first African American President of the United States. From his early life, few people could have foreseen his burgeoning leadership skills and vision. However, others would say it was his early life that helped shape his political career. Discover a few key Barack Obama facts focused on notable aspects of his life and career.

Early Years: Born in Hawaii

Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. was born on August 4, 1961 at the Kapi'olani Medical Center in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was born to Stanley (Ann) Dunham, an American, and Barack Obama, Sr., from Kenya. In Swahili, the name "Barack" means "one who is blessed."

Facts About Obama's Parents

Obama is the son of Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.

  • Stanley Ann Dunham was born in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, on November 29, 1942.
  • In 1960, Ann and her parents moved to Hawaii because her parents wanted to pursue business ventures in a state that had just been admitted to the Union.
  • Ann started taking classes at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, a neighborhood of Honolulu.
  • She met Barack Obama, Sr. at the university when they both enrolled in a Russian course.
  • Barack Sr. was the first African student ever enrolled in the university.
  • They married in Maui on February 2, 1961 — in spite of the disapproval from Ann's parents.
  • Barack Jr. was born six months after his parents were married.
  • Barack Jr. did not have much contact with his father throughout his childhood.
  • After Obama's parents divorced, his mother remarried and moved to Indonesia.
  • Barack Sr. only visited his son once after separating from Ann. That visit took place in 1971 when Barack Jr. was 10 years old.
  • The death of Barack Sr. in a car accident in 1982 precluded the possibility that he and Barack Jr. would ever spend more time together as father and son.
  • Ann died in 1995 after a battle with uterine and ovarian cancer.

Marriage and Family Life

Barack and Michelle LaVaughn Robinson met at the Sidley Austin law firm in Chicago where she was an attorney and he worked as a summer associate while enrolled in law school. They were wed on October 3, 1992. The couple has two daughters. Malia Ann was born on July 4, 1998, and Natasha (Sasha) was born on June 10, 2001.

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Facts About Obama's Education

After graduating from high school in Hawaii, Obama moved to the mainland for college.

  • In 1983, Obama graduated from Columbia University with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in political science (international relations specialization) and English literature.
  • In 1988, he enrolled in Harvard Law School and received his law degree in 1991, graduating magna cum laude. He was the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review.

Obama's Post-Law School Employment

Barack Obama held many jobs and positions throughout his lifetime prior to entering politics. After completing his B.A. degree, he worked as a market researcher and community organizer for five years before enrolling in law school. After graduating, he taught law, continued community organizing and practiced law.

Law Professor

After his 1991 graduation from Harvard Law School, Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.

Community Organizer

While teaching law, Obama also worked as a community organizer for a few years.

  • From April to October 1992, while teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, Obama directed Illinois' Project Vote, a voter registration campaign, directing a team of volunteers who registered 150,000 previously unregistered African Americans in Illinois.
  • In 1993, while still teaching, Obama went to work as director of the Developing Communities Project, a community organization comprised of eight Catholic parishes on Chicago's south side. He set up job training programs and tenant rights organizations.

Civil Rights Attorney

In 1993, Obama joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a law firm in Chicago that specialized in civil rights litigation. He worked as an associate for three years and then worked in a counsel capacity for eight years.

Published Author

Obama's selection as the first Black editor of the Harvard Law Review gained a publisher's attention and he was asked to write a book on race relations, which was published in 1995 as his autobiography Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. In it, he details the joys, frustrations and regrets of his days as a high schooler in Honolulu.

Obama went on to write several additional books, including:

  • The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream
  • Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters
  • Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise
  • A Promised Land

Political Life

In 1996, five years after graduating from Harvard Law School, Obama entered the public domain as a political figure.

Illinois State Senate

In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate representing Chicago's south side neighborhoods. He served in the state legislature until 2004, at which time he was elected to federal office. During his eight-year tenure in the Illinois Senate, Obama provided bipartisan support for many laws for ethics, health care, childcare, payday loan regulations, and predatory mortgage lending.

United States Senate

Obama was elected to the United States (U.S.) Senate in 2004 when he was 43 years old. He won with 70 percent of the votes. At that time, he became the third African American elected to the U.S, Senate. in the post-Reconstruction era.

President of the United States

On February 10, 2007, Obama announced he would be running for President of the United States. He campaigned against several Democratic candidates including Hillary Rodham Clinton.

  • Obama defeated John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.
  • He inaugurated on January 20, 2009, becoming the first African American U.S. president.
  • When he was sworn into office, Obama was only 47 years old. He became the fifth-youngest U.S. president.
  • Obama was elected to a second term in November 2012 after defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
  • He was sworn in for his second term on January 20, 2013.

Presidential Accomplishments

To fall into the ranks of some of the youngest presidents in U.S. history is surely a major accomplishment. Some of his many accomplishments as president include:

  • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009
  • Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010
  • Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, sometimes called ACA or Obamacare)
  • Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act
  • Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010
  • Budget Control Act of 2011
  • American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012
  • First sitting president to support same-sex marriage
  • Ended U.S. military involvement in the Iraq War
  • Ordered the military operation that ended in the death of Osama bin Laden

Nobel Peace Prize

Barack Obama was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009 for his "extraordinary efforts" at international diplomacy and foreign policy, especially with the Muslim world. There were over 200 nominations for the award; however, the five appointed members of the Norwegian Parliament voted unanimously to award the prize to Obama. The committee said they were particularly impressed with Obama's efforts to curb climate change, his support for preventing nuclear proliferation, and his work with international bodies such as the United Nations to implement policy goals.

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Transition Back to Private Citizen

January 20, 2017 marked Barack Obama’s last day as president. He announced he and his family would remain in Washington, D.C., at least until his youngest daughter graduated high school. Once his time in office was up, Obama and his family took a vacation in Palm Springs, California.

Netflix Production

In 2018, Obama announced a multi-year deal with Netflix. In it, Barack and Michelle Obama will produce a series of shows — scripted and unscripted — addressing issues that were important to them during his eight years in office. For example, in 2021, he will produce The G Word With Adam Conover, a part comedy, part documentary show that explores how the government actually works.

Personal Interests and Accomplishments

A well-rounded scholar and athlete, Obama holds many personal interests. Here are some of the highlights:

  • In 2006, Obama won a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Recording.
  • Scrabble and poker are two of his favorite games to play.
  • He can speak Spanish.
  • He collects Spider-Man comic books.
  • His favorite book is Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville.
  • Pablo Picasso is his favorite artist.
  • He loves to cook chili.
  • He’s the sixth post-war president to be left-handed.
  • He carries two good luck charms. One is a Madonna and Christ child statue. The other is a bracelet that belonged to a soldier who was in Iraq.
  • He keeps a wooden hand holding an egg on his desk. This is a Kenyan symbol that reminds people of the fragility of life.
  • He does not drink coffee and he does not drink alcohol frequently.

A Legacy That Carries On

A Promised Land, the first volume of Obama's presidential memoirs, was released in 2020. This book documents Obama's path to the presidency, as well as his experiences during his eight years in that office. For more facts about Barrack Obama, enjoy this time in-depth timeline of his life.