Episode 23 (formerly 1611): President Barack Obama


You may know that Barack Obama is the 44th president of the United States. He is America’s first African-American president. He served two terms, or eight years, and accomplished many things in his political career.

However, you may not know much about his life before the presidency. Today I will give you some facts. His full name is Barack Hussein Obama II, and he was born on August 4, 1961, in Hawaii. His mother was white and from Kansas. His father was black and from Kenya. They met while attending the University of Hawaii.

Barack’s father left the family when he was two years old. The father attended Harvard in Massachusetts then returned to Kenya. In 1971, Barack saw his father only one more time in his life. Barack Sr. died in Kenya in 1982.

Barack’s mother’s second husband was a man from Indonesia. Therefore, Barack lived in Indonesia from age six through ten. While there he attended a Catholic school and a Muslim school. He claims that he benefited from such a cultural multiplicity during his childhood: Hawaiian, Indonesian, white, black, Catholic, Muslim. While growing up, Barack often struggled with his identity as a black man in America because he had no strong black male role models.

Obama’s mother sent him to live with her parents in Hawaii when he was ten years old. He attended the prestigious Punahou School from fifth grade through the end of high school. His grades were good and he played for the varsity basketball team.

Barack went to college in Los Angeles for two years, then switched to Columbia University in New York City. He graduated in 1983 with a bachelor’s in political science. He took a job as a researcher for a global business-consulting firm in New York for a year after graduation.

After that, he moved to the South Side of Chicago, an area well known for its mostly poor, black population. His job there was a community organizer. Here, Obama became part of the African-American community he had been missing throughout his life. He worked with local churches and the people in general to improve the community through public service work and politics.

Because of this work, he realized he could get more things done if he were a lawyer. So, in 1988 he went to Harvard Law School and became an outstanding student. He was elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review from 1990-91, the first African-American to hold that position. He graduated magna cum laude in 1991.

During a summer internship in Chicago after his first year at Harvard, he met Michelle Robinson, herself a Harvard Law School graduate. They dated for the next four years and married in 1992. She is now our First Lady, Michelle Obama. They settled in Chicago and had two daughters: Malia, born in 1998, and Sasha, born in 2001.

While in Chicago, Barack Obama published his first book, Dreams from My Father in 1995. He directed a voter-registration drive to increase black voter turnout in the 1992 election. Then he had a job as a civil rights lawyer and as a teacher at a law school.

His first political campaign was in 1996, after which he became an Illinois state senator. He was very successful in passing laws regarding finance reform and crime legislation. In 2000 he ran for US Representative but lost. He returned to the state senate and then helped pass laws benefiting children, seniors, workers and poor people.

In 2004 Obama ran for US Senate and won. He published his second book, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, which became a national bestseller. And, as you know, he ran for president in 2008 and won. He took office in January of 2009; he was reelected for a second term in 2012.

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