-Barack Obama (1961-...), became in 2009 the first African American president of the United States. In the 2008 presidential election, Obama, a Democrat, defeated Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona. In the 2012 election, Obama defeated his Republican opponent, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, to win reelection.
-Family background. Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu. His first name comes from the Swahili word baraka, which means blessing.
-Boyhood. Barry spent his earliest years in Honolulu with his mother in his grandparents’ home. Friends described Barry as a happy child who loved spending time at the beach with his grandparents, whom he called “Toot” and “Gramps.”
-College. After graduation from high school, Obama enrolled at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He was popular among his classmates and became known as a serious student and an accomplished basketball player. While at Occidental, Obama participated in demonstrations to encourage the college to withdraw its investments from South Africa because of that country's policy of apartheid (rigid racial segregation). Obama credited the experience with getting him involved in public policy issues.
-Community organizer. In 1985, Obama moved to the South Side of Chicago to work for a community development organization in low-income African American neighborhoods. In this role, Obama worked to bring reform to schools and public housing, and to help residents organize for job-training and health-related issues.
-Law school. Obama entered Harvard Law School in 1988 and graduated magna cum laude (with great honor) in 1991. In law school, he became the first African American to serve as president of the Harvard Law Review. Law Review members are selected on the basis of their grades and writing ability, and membership is a prized honor. The members prepare articles for publication and elect a president to oversee their work. As president of the Law Review, Obama gained praise from fellow law students, both liberal and conservative, for his willingness to provide a forum for differing viewpoints.
-Obama’s family. In 1989, while working as a summer associate at a Chicago law firm, Obama met Michelle Robinson (1964-...). Michelle was a lawyer who later became a hospital executive. The couple married on Oct. 3, 1992. They have two children: Malia (1998-...) and Natasha, commonly called Sasha (2001-...). Obama's mother died of ovarian cancer in 1995.
-State senator. In 1995, Obama began campaigning for a seat in the Illinois Senate. He won the November 1996 race and took office in 1997. In the state Senate, he focused on such issues as health care, poverty, crime, ethics, and education. For much of his early legislative career, Obama’s Democrats were the minority party in the state Senate. Many of his early proposals failed, but he became known as a politician who would listen respectfully to opponents and their views.
-United States senator. In 2003, Obama decided to run for a U.S. Senate seat that was held by a retiring Republican. He easily won the Democratic nomination in 2004. In the November election, Obama faced Alan Keyes, a conservative commentator who before the campaign had been living in Maryland. Obama won the election with 70 percent of the vote. He took office in January 2005, becoming the only African American in the Senate.
-The 2008 election. In the November election, Obama defeated McCain to become the nation’s 44th president. Obama received about 53 percent of the vote, compared to about 46 percent for McCain. Obama won each of the states that had voted for Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, in 2004. He also won several states that had voted for the Republican candidate in recent presidential elections, including Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia. About a week after the election, Obama announced he would resign his Senate seat effective November 16.
-First 100 days. In April, political observers noted Obama's accomplishments after his first 100 days in office. In addition to the massive stimulus bill, Obama's response included measures to shore up the financial industry and to bail out troubled American automakers. He promised a major push to overhaul the nation's education and health care systems. He lifted restrictions on the federal funding of stem-cell research, and signed legislation making it easier for women to sue their employers for job discrimination.
-Health insurance reform. In March 2010, Obama signed a historic health insurance reform bill that extends coverage to about 30 million uninsured Americans. Obama said that the law reflected “the core principle that everybody should have security when it comes to their health care.” The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act expands Medicaid coverage; provides a tax credit to help small businesses with health care costs; and prevents insurers from dropping coverage for patients with preexisting medical conditions. It creates a system of health insurance exchanges in which insurance providers offer a variety of plans for uninsured and self-employed people to purchase. The law also contains cost-cutting measures intended to decrease long-term expenditures on health care. Provisions of the law were scheduled to take effect at various times between 2010 and 2020. No Republicans in Congress supported the bill.
-Death of bin Laden. On the night of May 1, 2011, President Obama announced on national television that the terrorist leader Osama bin Laden had been killed. Bin Laden, the leader of the al-Qa`ida terrorist network, had evaded capture since the 1990's. In late April 2011, Obama approved an operation to kill bin Laden at the terrorist leader's compound in Abbottabad, in northern Pakistan. Early on the morning of May 2 (May 1 in the United States), a team of Navy SEALs shot and killed bin Laden in a nighttime helicopter raid on the compound. Obama called the death of bin Laden “the most significant achievement to date” in the effort to defeat al-Qa`ida.
-The 2012 election. In September 2012, Obama and Biden were renominated at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Republicans nominated former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney for president and U.S. Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin for vice president. Key issues in the campaign included the economy, tax policy, health care reform, and foreign affairs. Obama held a comfortable lead over Romney in public opinion polls into the fall of 2012. Many observers criticized Obama's sluggish performance in the contest's first presidential debate in October, and the race grew close. In the November election, Obama defeated Romney by a decisive margin in electoral votes.
"Obama, Barack." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2013.
Has any president not liked living in the White House?