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Barack Obama
August 4, 1961 -
United States President


Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as the junior United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned after his election to the presidency in November 2008.

Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he was the president of the Harvard Law Review. He was a community organizer in Chicago before earning his law degree. He worked as a civil rights attorney in Chicago and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.

Obama served three terms in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004. Following an unsuccessful bid for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, he ran for United States Senate in 2004. During the campaign, several events brought him to national attention, such as his victory in the March 2004 Democratic primary election for the United States Senator from Illinois as well as his prime-time televised keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in July 2004. He won election to the U.S. Senate in November 2004.

Obama's presidential campaign began in February 2007, and after a close campaign in the 2008 Democratic Party presidential primaries against Hillary Clinton, he won his party's nomination. In the 2008 general election, he defeated Republican nominee John McCain and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. Obama is also the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

Early Life and Career

Barack Obama was born at Kapi'olani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, United States, to Stanley Ann Dunham, an American of predominantly English descent from Wichita, Kansas, and Barack Obama, Sr., a Luo from Nyang’oma Kogelo, Nyanza Province, Kenya Colony. Upon his election, he became the first President born in Hawaii. Obama's parents met in 1960 in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa, where his father was a foreign student on scholarship. The couple married on February 2, 1961, and Barack was born later that year. His parents separated when he was two years old and they divorced in 1964. Obama's father remarried and returned to Kenya, where he had two more sons, David and Mark Ndesandjo. The senior Obama saw his first son only once more before dying in an automobile accident in 1982.

After her divorce, Dunham married Indonesian student Lolo Soetoro, who was attending college in Hawaii. When Suharto, a military leader in Soetoro's home country, came to power in 1967, all Indonesian students studying abroad were recalled and the family moved to the island nation. They lived in the Menteng area of Jakarta. From ages six to ten, Obama attended local schools in Jakarta, including Besuki Public School and St. Francis of Assisi School

In 1971, Obama returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents, Madelyn and Stanley Armour Dunham, and attended Punahou School, a private college preparatory school, from the fifth grade until his graduation from high school in 1979

Obama's mother returned to Hawaii in 1972, remaining there until 1977 when she relocated to Indonesia to work as an anthropological field worker. She finally returned to Hawaii in 1994 and lived there for one year before dying of ovarian cancer

Of his early childhood, Obama recalled, "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." He described his struggles as a young adult to reconcile social perceptions of his multiracial heritage. Reflecting later on his formative years in Honolulu, Obama 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." 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." At the 2008 Civil Forum on the Presidency, Obama identified his high-school drug use as his "greatest moral failure."

Following high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles in 1979 to attend Occidental College. After two years he transferred in 1981 to Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations and graduated with a B.A. in 1983. He worked for a year at the Business International Corporation, then at the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Chicago Community Activism and Harvard Law

After four years in New York City, Obama moved to Chicago, where he was hired as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes in Greater Roseland (Roseland, West Pullman and Riverdale) on Chicago's far South Side. He worked there as a community organizer from June 1985 to May 1988. During his three years as the DCP's director, its staff grew from one to thirteen and its annual budget grew from $70,000 to $400,000. He helped set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization in Altgeld Gardens. Obama also worked as a consultant and instructor for the Gamaliel Foundation, a community organizing institute. 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. He returned in August 2006 in a visit to his father's birthplace, a village near Kisumu in rural western Kenya.

In late 1988, Obama entered Harvard Law School. He was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review at the end of his first year, and president of the journal in his second year. During his summers, he returned to Chicago, where he worked as a summer associate at the law firms of Sidley Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990. After graduating with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991, he returned to Chicago. Obama's election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review gained national media attention and led to a publishing contract and advance for a book about race relations,which evolved into a personal memoir. The manuscript was published in mid-1995 as Dreams from My Father.

Return to Chicago

From April to October 1992, Obama directed Illinois's Project Vote, a voter registration drive with a staff of ten and 700 volunteers; it achieved its goal of registering 150,000 of 400,000 unregistered African Americans in the state, and led to Crain's Chicago Business naming Obama to its 1993 list of "40 under Forty" powers to be.

For 12 years, Obama was a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School; as a lecturer from 1992 to 1996, and as a senior lecturer from 1996 to 2004. In 1993 he joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a law firm of 12 attorneys that specialized 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, with his law license becoming inactive in 2002.

Obama was a founding member of the board of directors of Public Allies in 1992, resigning before his wife, Michelle, became the founding executive director of Public Allies Chicago in early 1993. He served from 1994 to 2002 on the board of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which in 1985 had been the first foundation to fund the Developing Communities Project, and also from 1994 to 2002 on the board of directors of the Joyce Foundation. Obama 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. He also served on the board of directors of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Lugenia Burns Hope Center

Political Career: 1996–2008

State Legislator: 1997–2004

Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate in 1996, succeeding State Senator Alice Palmer as Senator 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. Once elected, Obama gained bipartisan support for legislation reforming ethics and health care laws. He sponsored a law increasing tax credits for low-income workers, negotiated welfare reform, and promoted increased subsidies for childcare. 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.

Obama was reelected to the Illinois Senate in 1998, defeating Republican Yesse Yehudah in the general election, and was reelected again in 2002. In 2000, he lost a Democratic primary run for the U.S. House of Representatives to four-term incumbent Bobby Rush by a margin of two to one.

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. 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. During his 2004 general election campaign for U.S. Senate, police representatives credited Obama for his active engagement with police organizations in enacting death penalty reforms. Obama resigned from the Illinois Senate in November 2004 following his election to the U.S. Senate.

2004 U.S. Senate campaign

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, and formally announced his candidacy in January 2003. Decisions by Republican incumbent Peter Fitzgerald and his Democratic predecessor Carol Moseley Braun not to contest the race launched wide-open Democratic and Republican primary contests involving fifteen candidates. In the March 2004 primary election, Obama won in an unexpected landslide—finishing with 53% of the vote in a seven candidate field, which overnight made him a rising star within the national Democratic Party and started speculation about a presidential future.

In July 2004, Obama wrote and delivered the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, and it was seen by 9.1 million viewers. His speech was well received and elevated his status within the Democratic Party. Obama's expected opponent in the general election, Republican primary winner Jack Ryan, withdrew from the race in June 2004. Six weeks later, Alan Keyes accepted the Illinois Republican Party's nomination to replace Ryan. In the November 2004 general election, Obama won with 70% of the vote.

U.S. Senator: 2005–2008

Obama was sworn in as a senator on January 4, 2005, at which time he became the only Senate member of the Congressional Black Caucus.] CQ Weekly characterized him as a "loyal Democrat" based on analysis of all Senate votes in 2005–2007. The National Journal ranked him among the "most liberal" senators during 2005 through 2007 He enjoyed high popularity as senator with a 72% approval in Illinois. Obama announced on November 13, 2008 that he would resign his senate seat on November 16, 2008, before the start of the lame-duck session, to focus on his transition period for the presidency.

Legislation

Obama cosponsored the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act. He introduced two initiatives bearing his name: Lugar–Obama, which expanded the Nunn–Lugar cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons, and the Coburn–Obama Transparency Act, which authorized the establishment of USAspending.gov, a web search engine on federal spending. On June 3, 2008, Senator Obama, along with Senators Thomas R. Carper, Tom Coburn, and John McCain, introduced follow-up legislation: Strengthening Transparency and Accountability in Federal Spending Act of 2008.

Obama sponsored legislation that would have required nuclear plant owners to notify state and local authorities of radioactive leaks, but the bill failed to pass in the full Senate after being heavily modified in committee. On the issue of tort reform, Obama voted for the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which grants immunity from civil liability to telecommunications companies complicit with NSA warrantless wiretapping operations.

In December 2006, President Bush signed into law the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act, marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor. In January 2007, Obama and Senator Feingold introduced a corporate jet provision to the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act, which was signed into law in September 2007. Obama also introduced Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act, a bill to criminalize deceptive practices in federal elections and the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007, neither of which has been signed into law.

Later in 2007, Obama sponsored an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act adding safeguards for personality disorder military discharges. This amendment passed the full Senate in the spring of 2008. He sponsored the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act supporting divestment of state pension funds from Iran's oil and gas industry, which has not passed committee, and co-sponsored legislation to reduce risks of nuclear terrorism. Obama also sponsored a Senate amendment to the State Children's Health Insurance Program providing one year of job protection for family members caring for soldiers with combat-related injuries.

Committees

Obama held assignments on the Senate Committees for Foreign Relations, Environment and Public Works and Veterans' Affairs through December 2006. In January 2007, he left the Environment and Public Works committee and took additional assignments with Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. He also became Chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on European Affairs. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama made official trips to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. He met with Mahmoud Abbas before he became President of the Palestinian Authority, and gave a speech at the University of Nairobi condemning corruption in the Kenyan government.

2008 Presidential Campaign

On February 10, 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for president of the United States in front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois. The choice of the announcement site was viewed as symbolic because it was also where Abraham Lincoln delivered his historic "House Divided" speech in 1858. Throughout the campaign, Obama emphasized the issues of rapidly ending the Iraq War, increasing energy independence and providing universal health care. A large number of candidates entered the Democratic Party presidential primaries. The field narrowed to a duel between Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton after early contests, with the race remaining close throughout the primary process but with Obama gaining a steady lead in pledged delegates due to better long-range planning, superior fundraising, dominant organizing in caucus states, and better exploitation of delegate allocation rules On June 3, with all states counted, Obama was named the presumptive nomineeand delivered a victory speech in St. Paul, Minnesota. Clinton ended her campaign and endorsed him on June 7.

Obama proceeded to focus on the general election campaign against Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, in the lead up to the Democratic National Convention. He announced on August 23, 2008, that he had selected Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate. At the convention, held August 25 to August 28 in Denver, Colorado, Hillary Clinton called for her delegates and supporters to endorse Obama, and she and Bill Clinton gave convention speeches in support of Obama. Obama delivered his acceptance speech to over 75,000 supporters and presented his policy goals; the speech was viewed by over 38 million people worldwide.

During both the primary process and the general election, Obama's campaign set numerous fundraising records, particularly in the quantity of small donations. On June 19, 2008, Obama became the first major-party presidential candidate to turn down public financing in the general election since the system was created in 1976.

After McCain was nominated as the Republican candidate, three presidential debates were held between the contenders spanning September and October 2008. In November, Obama won the presidency with 52.9% of the popular vote to McCain's 45.7%,and 365 electoral votes to 173, to become the first African American to be elected president. Obama delivered his victory speech before hundreds of thousands of supporters in Chicago's Grant Park<.p>

The inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President, and Joe Biden as Vice President, took place on January 20, 2009.

Nobel Peace Prize

On October 9, 2009 the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced that Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Obama accepted this award in Oslo, Norway on December 10, 2009 with "deep gratitude and great humility." The award drew a mixture of praise and criticism from world leaders and media figures.

Obama is the fourth U.S. president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the third to become a Nobel laureate while in office. He is the first to receive it during his first year as president.

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