Last updated on May 30th, 2020
Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, holds a special place in history as the first African-American president of the country. Read on to discover 53 interesting facts about Barack Obama, both political and personal.
1. Barack Hussein Obama Jr. was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the first American president to be born outside the 48 contiguous states. His name, Barack, means “one who is blessed” in Swahili. Barry was his childhood nickname.
2. His parents, Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Obama Sr. divorced when the Obama was two. His father returned to Kenya.
3. Obama only saw his father once again, when he came to Hawaii in 1971. He was killed in a car accident in 1982.
4. Ann remarried Lolo Soetoro and moved to Jakarta, Indonesia in the late 1960s where Obama learned to eat snake and dog meat plus roasted grasshopper and kept a pet ape named Tata.
5. Barack Obama returned to Hawaii to live with his mother’s parents in 1971 and attend school. For his skill in basketball, he was known as “O’Bomber” in the elite private Punahou School where he first began to understand the tensions inherent in a mixed racial background.
6. After graduating from high school with honors, Obama attended Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1979. In 1981 he made his first public speech, urging the college to support the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.
7. After two years, he transferred to New York’s Columbia University, majored in political science and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1983. He worked for five years before attending law school.
8. In 1988 he attended Harvard Law School, receiving his law degree magna cum laude in 1991.
9. While at Harvard Law, he was the first ever African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.
Work and Career
10. During his work break, Obama worked a two-year stint in corporate market research at the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG).
11. He then moved to Chicago and worked as a community organizer for the Developing Communities Project, with the Roseland community and a public housing development on Chicago’s South Side.
12. After graduation from Harvard Law in 1991, Obama taught constitutional law from 1992 to 2004 at the University of Chicago Law School.
13. While teaching he directed Illinois’ Project Vote in 1992, a voter registration campaign.
14. In 1993 Obama worked as the director of the Developing Communities Project, working with job training programs and tenant rights organizations.
15. He joined a Chicago law firm in 1993 that specialized in civil rights litigation. He was an associate for three years (1993-1996) and an attorney for eight years until 2004.
16. Asked to write a book on race relations, he published his autobiography in 1995. “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” deals with his high school days in Hawaii.
17. Other books written by Barack Obama include “The Audacity of Hope”; “Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughter”; and “Change We Can Believe In”.
18. He received two Grammies for Best Spoken Word Album of the Year. In 2006 he won for his reading of “Dreams from My Father”; in 2008 for the audio version of “The Audacity of Hope”.
Also read: Interesting facts about Nelson Mandela
19. Obama’s mother died in Honolulu in 1995.
20. Obama was 27 when he met his future wife, Michelle LaVaughn Robinson. Another Harvard Law graduate, she was assigned as his mentor when he became a summer associate at the same corporate law firm she worked for. They married on October 3, 1992.
21. The Obamas have two daughters, Malia Ann and Natasha (Sasha). The girls were ten and seven when their father became President. Michelle’s mother Marian Shields Robinson lived with them and helped care for the girls while their parents were busy in their leadership roles.
22. Obama promised his wife he would give up smoking before moving to Washington. He wasn’t able to then but did quit in 2010.
23. The girls were promised a puppy if their father won the presidential election, so a Portuguese Water Dog named Bo joined the family. They own another one named Sunny.
24. Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1996 representing the South Side neighborhoods of Chicago. He served there until 2005.
25. In the state Senate, Obama sponsored a bill to require the police to videotape interrogations in capital crime cases, the first state to do so.
26. After a previous unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate, Obama ran again and won with 70 percent of the vote in 2004. His opponent was Alan Keyes. The race marked the first time in history a Senate race took place between two African American candidates.
27. He was invited to give the Keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and gained national recognition. When he was sworn in as U.S. Senator in January 2005, he was only the third African American to hold that office since Reconstruction days.
28. In the Senate, he sponsored legislation on nuclear weapons threat reduction and established the Federal spending website USAspending.gov.
29. In 2006 he traveled to Kenya where thousands gathered to welcome and meet him. A school in his father’s hometown was renamed after him.
30. In February of 2007, he announces his candidacy for president. In June of 2008, he announces he won’t accept federal matching funds for his presidential campaign.
31. In August 2008 he chooses Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) as his vice presidential running mate then is officially nominated on the Democratic party ticket, becoming the first African American in U.S. history to lead a major political party.
32. On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama is elected president of the United States, the first African American to ever hold the office. Obama’s maternal grandmother died of cancer on November 3, one day before her grandson was elected.
33. Time Magazine named him “Person of the Year” for 2008. He won this title again in 2012.
34. On January 20, 2009, Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. He was 47 years old, the fifth youngest person to become president. His inauguration was the largest attendance ever seen for any event in Washington, D.C. with nearly 2 million people attending.
35. Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2009 for his “extraordinary efforts” at foreign policy and international diplomacy.
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