Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on August 4, 1961. His mother was Stanley Ann Dunham, called Ann. She met Barack Obama’s father, Barack Obama Sr., while she was taking a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii. Barack Sr. was of Luo ancestry. He had grown up herding goats in Kenya, but he earned a scholarship to the University of Hawaii. They married in 1961. Interracial marriage was illegal in most states in 1961.
Ann dropped out of college to care for Barack Jr. His father was accepted to a PhD program at Harvard University. His father studied economics because he dreamed of helping Kenya’s economy. Barack’s parents divorced in 1964, and Ann returned to the university. As a single parent, she needed food stamps and help from her family to do it, but she finished her degree in anthropology. She spent the next 20 years completing her PhD in anthropology. Her thesis was about blacksmithing in Indonesia.
Barack moved to Indonesia when he was six. His mother had met Lolo Soetoro after she returned to college. He was from Java, an island that is part of Indonesia. He studied geography. Ann and Lolo were married in Hawaii. They moved to Indonesia in 1966 and had a daughter, Maya. Barack went to Indonesian- and English-speaking schools there until he was 10. Then, he moved back to Hawaii to live with his grandparents. For grades 5-12, he went to Punahou School and graduated with honors in 1979. He was an excellent basketball player. Obama wrote about growing up in Hawaii: “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.”
With the help of scholarships and student loans, he went to Occidental College in Los Angeles from 1979–1981, and then Columbia University in New York. He decided to major in political science, specializing in international relations.
After school, Barack moved to Chicago. From 1985–1988, he worked as a community organizer for the Developing Communities Project (DCP). DCP was founded by a group of churches to help people who lost their jobs when local steel plants were closed. Barack helped set up a job training program, a tutoring program for people who wanted to go to college, and a tenants’ rights organization.
Barack became interested in law and was accepted to Harvard Law School. He was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. When he finished law school, he went back to Chicago where he was an attorney for victims of housing and employment discrimination. He also worked on voting rights legislation.
He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School and married Michelle Robinson. They had met while he had a summer internship at a law firm. She was an attorney there who was asked to be his adviser. They were married in 1992 and had two daughters: Malia (born 1998) and Sasha (born 2001).
In 1996, he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. His district included both the area around the University of Chicago (Hyde Park) and some of the poorest ghettos on the South Side of Chicago. He helped pass ethics reform, cut taxes for working families, expanded health care services, and increased funding for early childhood education programs for the poor.
In the 2004, he became known nationally when he gave a speech in support of John Kerry at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. In 2004, Barack Obama became the third African-American elected to the US Senate since Reconstruction. He created a website to track federal spending, helped pass lobbying reform, provided funding to lock up and destroy weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union, and pushed for alternative energy development and for improved benefits for veterans.
In 2008, he defeated Hillary Clinton to become the Democratic candidate for president and defeated the Republican candidate, John McCain, to become the 44th President of the United States. He was the first African-American president. On November 6, 2012, Barack Obama was elected to a second term as president after defeating the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.
Barack published his autobiography, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, in 1995. It has been printed in 10 languages. An audiobook version, which he narrated, received a Grammy Award for best spoken-word album.