Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Obama served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. He is the first African-American president of the United States and a member of the Democratic Party. Obama had previously served as a U.S. senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008 and as an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004.
Barack Hussein Obama Jr. was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was named after his father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., Kenyan senior governmental economist who met Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, while they were both students at the University of Hawaii. Obama Sr. got a scholarship through a special program to attend college in the United States. His parents married in 1961 and their union was dissolved in 1964.
Obama Sr. won a scholarship for a graduate fellowship in economics at Harvard University. He travelled to Cambridge, Massachusetts alone as the scholarship was not sufficient to support a family. After his degree, he returned to Kenya in 1964 to start work as a government economist.
Writing about his father in his autobiography, A Promised Land, Obama writes:
“Since I didn’t know my father, he didn’t have much input. I vaguely understood that he had worked for the Kenyan government for a time, and when I was ten, he travelled from Kenya to stay with us for a month in Honolulu. That was the first and last I saw of him; after that, I heard from him only through the occasional letter, written on thin blue airmail paper that was preprinted to fold and address without an envelope. “Your mother tells me you think you may want to study architecture,” one letter might read. “I think this is a very practical profession, and one that can be practiced anywhere in the world.”
“I DO KNOW that sometime in high school I started asking questions—about my father’s absence and my mother’s choices; about how it was I’d come to live in a place where few people looked like me”
In 1964, Obama’s mother met Indonesian oil company executive Lolo Soetoro in Hawaii, and they were married in 1967. The family left Hawaii and moved to Indonesia when Obama was six. He spent his early childhood in Indonesia. His half-sister Maya was born in Indonesia in 1970.
In 1971, the ten-year-old Obama was sent back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents and attend Punahou, an elite college preparatory school to which he had attained a scholarship with his grandparents’ help.
“Despite the financial strain, she and my grandparents would send me to Punahou, Hawaii’s top prep school. The thought of me not going to college was never entertained. But no one in my family would ever have suggested I might hold public office someday. If you’d asked my mother, she might have imagined that I’d end up heading a philanthropic institution like the Ford Foundation. My grandparents would have loved to see me become a judge, or a great courtroom lawyer like Perry Mason.”
Education and Early Career
After two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he transferred to Columbia University, where he studied political science and international relations. Following graduation in 1983, Obama worked in New York City, then became a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, coordinating with churches to improve housing conditions and set up job-training programs in a community hit hard by steel mill closures.
“MY INTEREST IN books probably explains why I not only survived high school but arrived at Occidental College in 1979 with a thin but passable knowledge of political issues and a series of half-baked opinions that I’d toss out during late-night bull sessions in the dorm.”
“After my sophomore year, I transferred to Columbia University, figuring it would be a new start. For three years in New York, holed up in a series of dilapidated apartments, largely shorn of old friends and bad habits, I lived like a monk—reading, writing, filling up journals, rarely bothering with college parties or even eating hot meals. I got lost in my head, preoccupied with questions that seemed to layer themselves one over the next. What made some movements succeed where others failed? Was it a sign of success when portions of a cause were absorbed by conventional politics, or was it a sign that the cause had been hijacked? When was compromise acceptable and when was it selling out, and how did one know the difference?”
For three years in New York, holed up in a series of dilapidated apartments, largely shorn of old friends and bad habits, I lived like a monk—reading, writing, filling up journals, rarely bothering with college parties or even eating hot meals.
Harvard Law School
“And so it was that in the fall of 1988, I took my ambitions to a place where ambition hardly stood out. Valedictorians, student body presidents, Latin scholars, debate champions—the people I found at Harvard Law School were generally impressive young men and women who, unlike me, had grown up with the justifiable conviction that they were destined to lead lives of consequence. That I ended up doing well there I attribute mostly to the fact that I was a few years older than my classmates. Whereas many felt burdened by the workload, for me days spent in the library—or, better yet, on the couch of my off-campus apartment, a ball game on with the sound muted—felt like an absolute luxury after three years of organizing community meetings and knocking on doors in the cold.”
“Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiencies, I tell my daughters—and at least that was true for me at Harvard. In my second year, I was elected the first Black head of the Law Review, which generated a bit of national press. I signed a contract to write a book. Job offers arrived from around the country, and it was assumed that my path was now charted, just as it had been for my predecessors at the Law Review: I’d clerk for a Supreme ”
In 1990, Obama became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating from Harvard, he returned to Illinois to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago and begin a career in public service, winning seats in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate.
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