Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th President of the United States, and the first African American to hold the office. Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and Harvard Law School, where he served as 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 and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law Schoolfrom 1992 to 2004. He served three terms representing the 13th District in the Illinois Senate from 1997 to 2004, running unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives in 2000.
In 2004, Obama received national attention during his campaign to represent Illinois in the United States Senate with his victory in the March Democratic Party primary. He began his presidential campaign in 2007 and, after a close primary campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2008, he won sufficient delegates in the Democratic Party primaries to receive the presidential nomination. He then defeated Republican nominee John McCain in the general election, and was inaugurated as president on January 20, 2009. Nine months after his election, Obama was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
During his first two years in office, Obama signed into law economic stimulus legislation in response to the Great Recession in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. Obama was reelected president in November 2012, defeating Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and was sworn in for a second term on January 20, 2013.
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 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.”
After high school, Obama moved to Los Angeles in 1979 to attend Occidental College. In mid-1981, Obama traveled to Indonesia to visit his mother and half-sister Maya, and visited the families of college friends in Pakistan and India for three weeks. Later in 1981, he transferred as a junior to Columbia College, Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialty in international relations and lived off-campus on West 109th Street.
According to New York Times article “In Brooklyn Brownstone, Future President Found a Home on the Top Floor” (2012) President Barack Obama lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, after he graduated from Columbia.
Obama’s family history, upbringing, and Ivy League education differ markedly from those of African-American politicians who launched their careers in the 1960s through participation in the civil rights movement. Expressing puzzlement over questions about whether he is “black enough,” Obama told an August 2007 meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists that “we’re still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong.”
According to the Gallup Organization, Obama began his presidency with a 68 percent approval rating before gradually declining for the rest of the year, and eventually bottoming out at 41 percent in August 2010, a trend similar to Ronald Reagan’s and Bill Clinton‘s first years in office.
Obama won Best Spoken Word Album Grammy Awards for abridged audiobook versions of Dreams from My Father in February 2006 and for The Audacity of Hope in February 2008. His concession speech after the New Hampshire primary was set to music by independent artists as the music video “Yes We Can“, which was viewed 10 million times on YouTube in its first month and received a Daytime Emmy Award. In December 2008 and in 2012, Time magazine named Obama as its Person of the Year.
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.”
Obama’s peace prize was called a “stunning surprise” by The New York Times. 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.
In a 2006 interview, Obama highlighted the diversity of his extended family: “It’s like a little mini-United Nations”, he said. “I’ve got relatives who look like Bernie Mac, and I’ve got relatives who look like Margaret Thatcher.”
Obama is a Christian whose religious views developed in his adult life. He wrote in The Audacity of Hope that he “was not raised in a religious household”. He described his mother, raised by non-religious parents (whom Obama has specified elsewhere as “non-practicing Methodists and Baptists“), as being detached from religion, yet “in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known.”