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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
- Early life of Barack Obama
- Barack Obama’s political career: Illinois Senator, U.S. Senator, U.S. President
- Contributions of the Obama administration to the U.S.
KEY FACTS AND INFORMATION
Let’s know more about Barack Obama!
- Barack Obama (in full Barack Hussein Obama II) was an African-American lawyer, politician and Democratic Party member, who served as the 44th President of the United States from 2009 to 2017. He previously served as an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004 and a U.S. senator from 2005 to 2008. His victory during the 2008 presidential elections was a momentous event in U.S. history as he was the first African-American to become the President of the United States.
- During his two terms, he made significant contributions to the country such as the signing into law of many landmark bills like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, to name a few.
- Furthermore, it was also during his governance that Osama bin Laden was killed and an agreement with Iran was made to limit its nuclear programme.
Early Life of Barack Obama
- Barack Obama was born on 4 August 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father, Barack Obama, Sr. was an African while his mother, Ann Dunham, was an American of European descent.
- His parents met in 1960 in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. They married in Wailuku, Hawaii six months before the birth of Barack Obama but eventually divorced 4 years later.
- In 1965, Dunham married Lolo Soetero, an Indonesian, after meeting him in 1963 at the University of Hawaii. Obama, his mother and stepdad then moved to Jakarta, Indonesia where he attended local Indonesian-language schools that taught him to speak Indonesian fluently.
- In 1971, Obama moved back to Honolulu as he chose to stay there with his maternal grandparents. He reflected on his years in Hawaii and 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 his father died in an 1982 car accident, he recalled his childhood saying, “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”. His mother, on the other hand, died two days before his election to the Presidency.
- After graduating from high school in 1979, Obama moved to Los Angeles to study at Occidental College where he graduated with a degree in political science in 1983. In 1991, he graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law. His law professor Laurence Tribe commended him, saying in an interview, “the better he did at Harvard Law School and the more he impressed people, the more obvious it became that he could have had anything, but it was clear that he wanted to make a difference to people, to communities”.
- In June 1989, Obama met Michelle Robinson during his employment as a summer associate at Sidley Austin Chicago law firm. Soon after, they got married on 3 October 1992. The couple’s first daughter was Malia Ann, born in 1998 by vitro fertilisation after Michelle suffered a miscarriage. Three years later, Malia Ann was followed by Natasha, the couple’s second daughter.
- He was able to publish two books, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (1995) and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006). His literary efforts won him two Grammy Awards for best spoken word album in 2005 and 2007 for the audio versions of his books.
- In 1996, Obama was elected as Illinois Senator where he gained bipartisan support for legislation that reformed health care and ethics laws. He particularly sponsored a law that negotiated welfare reform, promoted increased subsidies for childcare, and increased tax credits for low-income workers.
- These efforts led to him being re-elected in 1998 and again in 2002. In 2000, however, he lost to four-term incumbent Bobby Rush in a Democratic primary race for Illinois’s 1st congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Being an early opponent of President George Bush's war with Iraq, in October 2002 while still a state senator, Obama spoke against a resolution authorising the use of force against Iraq.
- He said, “I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars; what I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other armchair, weekend warriors in this administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne”. Despite this, however, the Iraq War still began in 2003.
- In 2003, Obama became the chairman of the Illinois Senate’s Health and Human Services Committee. He worked with law enforcement officials to require videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases, making Illinois the first state to do so.
- In November 2004, Obama resigned from the Illinois Senate position.
- In January 2003, Obama formally announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. He gained popularity and elevated his status within the Democratic Party after his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
- In June 2004, Republican Jack Ryan withdrew from the race with Alan Keyes replacing him. Finally, in the November 2004 general election, Obama was announced the winner garnering 70% of the votes.
- He became the sole Senate member of the Congressional Black Caucus after he was sworn in as senator on 3 January 2005. On 13 November 2008, Obama resigned from his Senate seat so that he could focus on his transition period for the Presidency.
FIRST TERM AS PRESIDENT
- On 10 February 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for president. His public announcement was held in front of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois – the same site where Abraham Lincoln delivered his 1858 “House Divided” speech.
- On 23 August 2008, Obama announced Delaware Senator Joe Biden as his running mate. Their Republican opponents were John McCain with his running mate Sarah Palin.
- Finally on 4 November, Obama won the presidency with 365 electoral votes to 173 received by McCain. He was also able to win 52.9% of the popular vote. He was inaugurated on 20 January 2009 and it was an historic moment for the country as he became the first African-American to be elected president and the third African-American to be elected to that body since the end of Reconstruction.
- During his inauguration speech, Obama said, "today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met”.
- Obama’s efforts to strengthen international diplomacy as soon as he stepped into office, especially his vision for a world without nuclear weapons, earned him a 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.
SECOND TERM AS PRESIDENT
- During the 2012 presidential elections, Obama announced his reelection campaign in the “It Begins with Us” video that he posted on his website. Together with Biden, they secured their Democratic Party nomination with Republican opponents Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan.
- At Chicago's McCormick Place, Obama addressed his supporters saying, “tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties”.
- Finally on 6 November 2012, Obama won a second four-year term as president with 332 electoral votes and 51.1% of the popular vote, making him the first Democratic president since Franklin Roosevelt to win a majority of the popular vote twice. His inauguration took place on 20 January 2009.
- His term ended on 20 January 2017. During his final days in office, he presented Vice President Joe Biden with the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction.
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 or simply Recovery Act, was signed into law by Obama in February 2009 with a long title: “An Act making supplemental appropriations for job preservation and creation, infrastructure investment, energy efficiency and science, assistance to the unemployed, State, and local fiscal stabilization, for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, and for other purposes.”
- Thus, in response to the Great Recession, the act was made for job preservation and creation, providing a temporary relief programme for those who were affected by the recession. After it was signed into law, economists’ surveys suggested an overwhelming reduction in unemployment rate.
- 8 October 2009 - Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that included crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity and sexual orientation.
- 22 December 2010 - He also signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act that openly allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the U.S. Armed Forces.
- 2012 and 2013 - He became the first American president to support the legalisation of same-sex marriage and call for full equality for gay Americans.
- Due to these, Obama has become widely regarded as the most pro-LGBT president in United States history.
- On 23 March 2010, in his first few days in office, Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) or Obamacare.
- This became the most important expansion of the U.S. healthcare system since Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
- With the aid of Obamacare, the number of Americans who lacked health insurance dropped from 43.8 million to 28.6 million in 2016. Hence, the percentage dropped from 14.7% in 2008 to 9.0% in 2016 which was the lowest percentage on record.
KILLING OF OSAMA BIN LADEN
- On 29 April 2011, Obama ordered the covert operation in Pakistan to track down al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – infamous for being the mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
- On 2 May 2011, an elite team of U.S. Navy SEALs raided Abbottabad, Pakistan. Here, they were able to kill bin Laden in a firefight.
- Obama then announced on national television, “for over two decades, bin Laden has been al Qaeda’s leader and symbol and has continued to plot attacks against our country and our friends and allies. The death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al Qaeda,” Obama said. “As we do, we must also reaffirm that the United States is not — and never will be — at war with Islam”.
IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL
- In September 2013, Obama spoke with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to discuss an agreement over Iran's nuclear development programme.
- In July 2015, it was announced that they had reached an agreement: The deal allowed U.S. inspectors entry to Iran to make sure that the country kept their pledge to limit its nuclear programme in exchange for the U.S. removing the tough sanctions imposed on Iran.
- This deal, however, would be withdrawn by Obama’s successor, Donald Trump in 2018.