Barack Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4th, 1961. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was born and raised in a small village in Kenya, where he grew up herding goats with his own father, who was a domestic servant to the British. Barack's mother, Ann Dunham, grew up in small-town Kansas. Her father worked on oil rigs during the Great Depression, and then signed up for World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor, where he marched across Europe with the U.S. Army under Gen. George Patton. Her mother went to work on a bomber assembly line, and after the war, both her parents studied on the G.I. Bill, bought a house through the Federal Housing Program, and moved to Hawaii. It was there, at the University of Hawaii, where Barack's parents met. His mother was a student there, and his father had won a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya and pursue his dreams in America. Barack's father eventually returned to Kenya. Barack grew up with his mother in Hawaii and, for a few years, in Indonesia. Later, he moved to New York, where he graduated from Columbia University in 1983.
Remembering the values of empathy and service that his mother taught him, Barack put law school and corporate life on hold after college and, in 1985, moved to Chicago, where he became a community organizer with a church-based group seeking to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods plagued with crime and high unemployment. The group had some success, but Barack had come to realize that in order to truly improve the lives of people in that community and other communities, it would take not just a change at the local level, but a change in the nation’s laws and politics. He went on to earn his law degree in 1991 from Harvard, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Soon after, he returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer and teach constitutional law. Finally, his advocacy work led him to run for the Illinois State Senate, where he served for eight years. In 2004, he became the third African American since Reconstruction to be elected to the U.S. Senate, and in 2009, he became the first African American President of the United States.
It has been the rich and varied experiences of Barack Obama's life—growing up in different places with people who had differing ideas—that have animated his political journey. Amid the partisanship and bickering of today's public debate, he still believes in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose—a politics that puts solving the challenges of everyday Americans ahead of partisan calculation and political gain. In the Illinois State Senate, this meant working with Democrats as well as Republicans to help working families get ahead by creating programs such as the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which in three years provided more than $100 million in tax cuts to families across the state. He also pushed through an expansion of early childhood education, and after a number of inmates on death row were found innocent, Senator Obama worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. In the U.S. Senate, he focused on tackling the challenges of a globalized, twenty-first century world with fresh thinking and a politics that no longer settles for the lowest common denominator. His first law was passed with Republican Tom Coburn, a measure to rebuild trust in government by allowing every American to go online and see how and where every dime of their tax dollars is spent. He also was the lead voice in championing ethics reform that would root out Jack Abramoff-style corruption in Congress. As a member of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, Senator Obama fought to help Illinois veterans get the disability pay they were promised, while working to prepare the VA for the return of the thousands of veterans who will need care after the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recognizing the terrorist threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, he traveled to Russia with Republican Dick Lugar to begin a new generation of non-proliferation efforts designed to find and secure deadly weapons around the world. And knowing the threat we face to our economy and our security from America's addiction to oil, he's working to bring auto companies, unions, farmers, businesses, and politicians of both parties together to promote the greater use of alternative fuels and higher fuel standards in our cars.
In the spring of 2007, Senator Obama announced his bid to seek the 2008 Democratic nomination for president. As of this writing, he is first African-American ever to become President of the United States.
In addition to his political career, Senator Obama is an accomplished author. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, a memoir, was first published in 1995, and was rereleased following his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His most recent book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, a poltical biography, was released in October of 2006. Both works were recognized with Grammy Awards for the Best Spoken Word Album category.
Whether it's the poverty exposed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the genocide in Darfur, or the role of faith in our politics, Barack Obama continues to speak out on the issues that will define America in the twenty-first century. But above all his accomplishments and experiences, he is most proud and grateful for his family. While he, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12, call Chicago's South Side home, they have now become the forty-fourth family to to reside at the White House.
Three Rivers Press, Crown, Carroll & Graf
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