Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States and the country’s first African-American president. In 2008 and 2012, he was elected to two terms. Obama was born and reared in Hawaii, the son of Kenyan and Kansas parents. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Columbia University and his law degree from Harvard Law School, where he served as president of the Harvard Law Review. He was elected to the United States Senate in 2004 after serving in the Illinois State Senate. Malia and Sasha Obama, his two kids, are the result of his marriage to Michelle Obama.
Early Life & Background
Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Barack Obama Sr., Obama’s father, is of Luo ancestry and was born in Kenya’s Nyanza Province. Obama Sr. grew raised in Africa herding goats before winning a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya and follow his dream of attending college in Hawaii.
Ann Dunham, Obama’s mother, was born on an Army base in Wichita, Kansas, during WWII. Dunham’s father, Stanley, enrolled in the military after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and marched across Europe with General George Patton’s army. Madelyn Dunham, Dunham’s mother, went to work on a bomber assembly line.
The pair studied on the G.I. Bill after the war, acquired a house through the Federal Housing Program, and eventually settled in Hawaii after multiple migrations.
Obama Sr. met fellow student Ann Dunham while attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Barack II was born six months after they married on February 2, 1961.
Soon after his birth, his father abandoned him, and the couple divorced two years later. Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian student at the University of Hawaii, in 1965. Obama’s half-sister, Maya Soetoro Ng, was born in 1970 in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the family moved there a year later. After several incidences in Indonesia made Dunham fearful for her son’s safety and education, Obama was moved back to Hawaii at the age of ten to live with his maternal grandparents. They were eventually joined by his mother and half-sister.
Obama did not have a close relationship with his father when he was a child. Obama Sr. moved to Massachusetts when his son was still a baby to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard University. After a few months of separation, Obama’s parents divorced in March 1964, when their son was two years old. Obama Sr. returned to Kenya shortly after.
Obama battled with his father’s absence during his boyhood, seeing him only once after his parents divorced, when Obama Sr. visited Hawaii for a brief period in 1971. “Nothing my mother or grandparents could tell me could change the fact that [my father] had departed paradise,” he later remembered. “They had no idea what it would have been like if he had stayed.”
In 1979, Obama enrolled at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He transferred to Columbia University in New York City after two years and graduated with a degree in political science in 1983. In 1991, he received a magna cum laude from Harvard Law School.
Obama worked in the business sector for two years after graduating from Columbia University as an undergrad. In 1985, he relocated to Chicago, where he worked as a community organizer for low-income residents in the Roseland and Altgeld Gardens neighborhoods on the city’s poor South Side.
Obama joined the Trinity United Church of Christ during this time, despite the fact that he “was not reared in a religious household.” He also paid an emotional visit to his biological father’s and paternal grandfather’s graves in Kenya, where he died in a car accident in November 1982.
“I sat between the two graves for a long time and grieved,” Obama wrote. “I realized that everything I’d experienced in America — the Black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d had as a child, the frustration and hope I’d watched in Chicago — was all tied to this small patch of earth an ocean away.”
Obama entered Harvard Law School in 1988 after returning from Kenya with a renewed sense of purpose. The following year, he met with Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor. Tribe was so impressed by their conversation that he volunteered to join Obama’s staff as a research assistant when he requested.
Obama returned to Chicago after law school to work as a civil rights lawyer with Miner, Barnhill & Galland. Between 1992 and 2004, he worked part-time as a lecturer and subsequently as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, where he also helped organize voter registration drives during Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
Obama defeated Republican presidential contender John McCain 52.9 percent to 45.7 percent on November 4, 2008, to become the 44th president of the United States—and the first African American to do it. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, his running companion, was elected vice president.
At the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin, Obama met Michelle Robinson, a young lawyer who was assigned to be his mentor. The two began dating soon after. He and Michelle married on October 3, 1992.
They relocated to Kenwood, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. Malia (born 1998) and Sasha (born 1998) are Barack and Michelle Obama’s two daughters (born 2001).
He is worth $70 million as of 2022.
Want to Submit Your Biography?
Disclaimer! Each content published on The Nation is for education-related purposes. Contact us to make corrections or contributions.