2009-2016DemocratAugust 4, 1961, in Honolulu, HawaiiObama and his wife Michelle reside in the Kalorama area of Washington, D.C.
Vice PresidentFirst LadyPrevious OccupationsStates in Union
Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Michelle Robinson Obama (Wife)Lawyer, Public Official50


Obama’s parents were Barack Obama, Sr., and Ann Dunham. Obama married Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in 1989. They have two daughters, Sasha and Malia.


Promoting a message of hope and change throughout his 2008 campaign, Obama electrified voters at home and observers around the globe as he promised to end the war in Iraq, reinvigorate the economy, modernize health care, invest in early childhood education, and promote the use of alternative fuels and renewable energy. With an education in constitutional law and years of experience working as a community organizer, state senator, and senator, our first African American president entered the executive office with both knowledge and practical experience. Yet, his administration faced many daunting challenges as the global economy continued to sink into recession and military conflicts continued in Iraq and Afghanistan. In his weekly address to the nation during the first week of January 2009, Obama reaffirmed his positive stance regarding the future, “We are a people of boundless industry and ingenuity. We are innovators and entrepreneurs and have the most dedicated and productive workers in the world. And we have always triumphed in moments of trial by drawing on that great American spirit—that perseverance, determination and unyielding commitment to opportunity on which our nation was founded. And in this new year, let us resolve to do so once again.”

To confront the exploding economic crisis, Obama recommended Congress pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, an $800 billion stimulus package that funneled money to state governments, transportation and infrastructure projects, and middle-class tax relief. With mostly Democratic support, Congress passed the Act and the president was able to sign it into law less than one month following his inauguration.

Following passage of the economic stimulus, Obama turned his attention to health care reform and the goal of guaranteeing health care coverage for all Americans. With an increasingly partisan Congress influenced by the growing conservative Tea Party movement, the president ultimately appealed to the American people, explaining his goals for health care reform in a televised prime-time address to Congress. This direct appeal, coupled with one-on-one meetings with skeptical members of Congress, helped the president get the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—better known as “Obamacare”—passed by both houses of Congress, although with no Republican support. In fact, Republican promises to repeal Obamacare became a regular theme in the 2012 presidential election campaign. Although the Supreme Court voted to uphold Congress’ power to enact most provisions of the ACA in 2012, challenges to Obamacare continue to be mounted and the Supreme Court is expected to rule again on the constitutionality of the law before its term ends in June 2021.

Other policy initiatives enacted during the first term of the Obama administration included abolition of the existing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which prevented gay people from serving openly in the military; the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for women; Race to the Top, an education initiative that encouraged states to compete for $4.5 billion in extra funding; and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, financial reform aimed at restoring responsibility and accountability within financial institutions.

Withdrawing American troops from Iraq had been a key campaign promise, and in February 2009 Obama announced his plan to gradually reduce troops and withdraw all troops before 2012. In Afghanistan, however, Obama increased our military presence by 21,000 troops in an effort to prevent the Taliban and Al Qaeda from retrenching their power and terrorist activities. Recognizing a need to reassess just months later, Obama sought recommendations from American military commanders and then in December authorized a short-term surge of troops back to Afghanistan to help train Afghani military to fight the Taliban on its own.

In November 2012, Obama won a second term by defeating his Republican opponent Mitt Romney with a total of 332 electoral votes and 51% of the popular vote. In his second term, the president sought to address climate change. He announced the Climate Action Plan in 2013, whose goals were to lower carbon pollution, prepare for the anticipated effects of climate change, and to work internationally to reverse climate change. Later that year, Obama signed an executive order detailing how the United States would work to confront climate change. In 2015 Obama worked with the Environmental Protection Agency to create the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon emissions from power plants. And in November, Obama attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, at which the Paris Agreement (an international plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a primary means of confronting global warming) was negotiated by representatives from 55 countries. The agreement was signed in April 2016 and became effective in November 2016.

Other second term initiatives and achievements include the signing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which extended tax breaks for most Americans, but raised taxes for America’s highest earners; enactment of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013; passage of the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013; passage of the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2014; signing of an executive order protecting the rights of LGBT employees in the workforce; passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act; and the negotiation of an unprecedented agreement with Iran to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons in 2016.

The Obama years “… began in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, and ended with the highest level of household income ever recorded,” according to a post-term analysis conducted by FactCheck.org, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center. The unemployment rate was a high of 7.8 percent when Obama took office, but decreased to 4.7 percent by the end of his second term, the economy having gained a net of 11.6 million jobs. After-tax corporate profits and stock prices set records, but the federal debt owed to the public rose 128 percent. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, 15 million more Americans gained health insurance. Although premiums did go up, they rose more slowly than in previous administrations. 


“Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America—there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” (Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention, July 27, 2004)

“If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.” (November 4, 2008)

“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. On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord. On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.” (Inaugural Address, January 20, 2009)

“We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth. It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law—for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm. That is our generation’s task—to make these words, these rights, these values – of Life, and Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—real for every American.” (Inaugural Address, January 21, 2013)

At This Time

2009: In January Russia shuts off all gas supplies to Europe through Ukraine, instigating an international energy dispute • Israel begins battling Hamas militants in heavy urban warfare near and around the main city of the Gaza Strip • Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois is convicted on charges of fraud and soliciting bribes and removed from office • The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act becomes law • The World Health Organization acknowledges swine flu has become a global pandemic • Tens of thousand of Iranians protest the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to a second term due to fraud accusations • Pop icon Michael Jackson dies due to an overdose of prescription drugs • On June 30, the U.S. military hands over security of Iraq to Iraqi forces • Sonia Sotomayor is sworn in as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court • In August Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy dies at age 77 • President Obama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize • In December Obama announces 30,000 more troops will be deployed to Afghanistan • A passenger on a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam ignites a small explosive device before landing in Detroit, but is thwarted by the crew

2010: A 7.0 earthquake kills more than 200,000 in Haiti • Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on March 23 • Volcanic ash from the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland leads to the closure of airspace over most of Europe • Obama signs New START, a nuclear arms reduction treaty, with President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia • Explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig kills 11 and initiates massive oil discharge in Gulf of Mexico • Jessica Watson becomes youngest person to sail, non-stop and unassisted around the world solo • Operation Iraqi Freedom ends August 19 • The Copiapó mining accident in Copiapó, Chile ends as all 33 miners arrive at surface after surviving a record 69 days underground • The International Space Station surpasses the record for the longest continuous human occupation of space, having been continuously inhabited since November 2, 2000 • WikiLeaks releases more than 250,000 American diplomatic cables, including 100,000 marked “secret” or “confidential”

2011: In January anti-government protests begin in Tunisia, and then in other Arab nations, becoming known as the Arab Spring • Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns after widespread protests calling for his departure in February • In March a 9.1-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the east of Japan, killing 15,840 and leaving thousands missing. Tsunami warnings are issued in 50 countries and territories. • Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, marries Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London in April • On May 1, President Obama announces that Osama bin Laden, the founder and leader of the militant group Al-Qaeda, has been killed during an American military operation in Pakistan • In July the world’s first artificial organ transplant is achieved, an artificial windpipe • NASA’s space shuttle program ends when Atlantis lands successfully at Kennedy Space Center • NASA announces its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has captured photographic evidence of possible liquid water on Mars during warm seasons • Occupy Wall Street protests begin in U.S., triggering the Occupy movement, which spreads to 82 countries by October • The U.S. formally declares an end to the Iraq War on December 15.

2012: The European Union adopts an embargo against Iran in protest of that nation’s continued effort to enrich uranium • The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II marks 60th anniversary of her accession to thrones of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand • In February Iran suspends oil exports to Britain and France following sanctions enacted by U.S. and European Union • In March the Encyclopaedia Britannica discontinues its print edition after 244 years since first publication • A pastel version of The Scream by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch sells for $120 million in a New York City auction, setting a new world record for an auctioned work of art • Tokyo Skytree, the tallest self-supporting tower in the world, is opened to public • CERN announces the discovery of a new particle with properties consistent with the Higgs boson after experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in July • In September a series of terrorist attacks is directed against U.S. diplomatic missions worldwide, as well as diplomatic missions of Germany, Switzerland, and the U.K. • In October Hurricane Sandy kills at least 209 people in the Caribbean, Bahamas, U.S., and Canada • Israel launches Operation Pillar of Defense against the Palestinian-governed Gaza Strip, killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. More violence ensues. A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

2013: In March the Jesuit archbishop of Beunos Aires, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is elected as the new pope and becomes Pope Francis. •  In April two bombs explode near the Boston Marathon finish line killing three and wounding over 260 others. • The Guardian announces in June that thousands of top secret files, including communications of millions of U.S. citizens, have been leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. •  In October the federal government shuts down for 16 days because Congress is not able to appropriate funds for the next fiscal year.  •  The Obama administration launches an online health care exchange to enable Americans to sign up for health insurance as provided in the Affordable Care Act.  •  In November the U.S. and five other world powers agree on pact with Iran to cap development of nuclear weapons.

2014: In January scientists discover how to convert normal cells into stem cells in mice. • In February the XXII Winter Olympic Games open in Sochi, Russia. • US Secretary of State John Kerry claims climate change requires urgent action. • Obama meets with the Dalai Lama. • In March Russia annexes Crimea and threatens rest of Ukraine. • Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappears. • 12 Years a Slave wins Academy Award for best picture. •In April Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducts Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Kiss, Nirvana, Linda Ronstadt, and Cat Stevens. • In May Pauline, chamber  opera by Margaret Atwood and Tobin Stokes, premieres at York Theatre in Vancouver. • In June ISIS declares an Islamic Caliphate. • Pro-Democracy protests erupt in Hong Kong. • US Supreme Court rules that police cannot examine digital contents of cell phone without court order. • In July Church of England votes in favor of allowing women to become bishops. • Both Israel and Hamas review US Secretary of State John Kerry’s proposal for immediate ceasefire and meetings in Cairo. • In August USA and UN announce 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Palestine, though it quickly breaks down. • Obama signs Iron Dome Bill providing $225 million in additional funding for Israel’s Iron Dome defense. • West African Ebola outbreak is categorized as international concern by WHO. • Unrest breaks out in Ferguson, Missouri after death of African American Michael Brown by policeman. • In September Scotland votes to remain part of UK. • Obama announces US will send 3,000 troops to help combat spread of Ebola. • NASA’s MAVEN space probe successfully arrives in orbit over Mars. • In October Patrick Modiano wins Nobel Prize in Literature. • Gatwick, Heathrow, and JFK airports enhance screening for Ebola. • In November US votes in mid-term elections: Republicans retain House and regain Senate. • Mikhail Gorbachev warns that tensions between America and Russia over Ukraine have put world on brink of new Cold War. • Obama authorizes deployment of 1,500 additional troops to help train and advise Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State militants. • Protests erupt across US after decision by Missouri grand jury not to bring charges against white policeman who shot dead a black teenager. • In December Stephen Hawking claims that Artificial Intelligence could be a “threat to mankind” and spell the end of the human race. • UN warns the world is on course for the year since records began.

2015: In January Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame. • Terrorist attack on offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris kills twelve. • In February New England Patriots beat Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX. • In March NASA’s Dawn space probe enters orbit around dwarf planet Ceres. • Obama signs executive order declaring Venezuela a national security threat to US. • In April riots break out in Baltimore following death of Freddie Gray, whom police had picked up and put in a transport van without strapping him in properly, resulting in fatal spinal injuries. • Obama and Raúl Castro meet in Panama, first meeting of US and Cuban heads of state since Cuban Revolution. • Migrant ship carrying around 550 sinks off the Libyan coast, about 400 drown. • Boat carrying about 850 migrants shipwrecked in Mediterranean, with only 27 migrants rescued. • Pulitzer Prize awarded to Anthony Doerr for All the Light We Cannot See and Elizabeth Kolbert for The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. • In May an Amtrak train derails in Philadelphia, killing eight, injuring more than 200 passengers. • In June nation mourns mass shooting of nine African Americans by white supremacist in Charleston, SC’s Emanuel AME Church. •  Supreme Court votes to allow same-sex couples to marry. Obama calls it a “victory for America.” • Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command Nasser al-Wuhayshi (Osama Bin Laden’s former private secretary) killed in US air strike in Yemen. • US Treasury announces image of Alexander Hamilton to be replaced on US $10 bill by image of a woman. • Pope Francis blames human selfishness for global warming in his encyclical, named “On the Care of Our Common Home.” •  Obamacare subsidies in Affordable Care Act preserved by US Supreme Court. • In July BP agrees to compensate US government and gulf states $18.7 billion for 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. • Serena Williams is oldest winner (33) in Open era at Wimbledon. • WHO estimates world’s Ebola death toll at 11,284. • In August war in Syria triggers European refugee crisis as tens of thousands flee Syria, Middle East, and Africa seeking asylum. •  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces one billion people logged into Facebook. •  In September Pope Francis visits US. • NASA scientists announce discovery of flowing water on Mars. • In October UN states migrants arriving in Greece top 500,00 for year. • Adele releases single “Hello”  becoming first song with more than one million downloads in first week. • In November Kansas City Royals win first World Series title since 1985. • On November 13 a series of terror attacks executed in restaurants, football stadium, and concert hall kill 130 people in Paris, France. • In December Mayor of Flint, Michigan declares state of emergency over contaminated water supplies amid calls for a criminal investigation.

2016: In January Star Wars: The Force Awakens breaks North American box office record. • North Korea conducts its fourth nuclear test since 2006, followed by series of ballistic missile tests and a nuclear test in September. • Oxfam states that world’s 62 richest people are now as wealthy as half the world’s population. • Category 5 blizzard delivers record 3ft of snow to Mid-Atlantic and Northeast US, killing 55. • In February WHO declares global public health emergency over rapid spread of Zika-linked conditions. • Academy of Motion Pictures awards Best Actor to Leonardo DiCaprio and Best Actress to Brie Larson. • In March President Vladimir Putin orders Russian troops out of Syria. • NASA releases data showing February 2016 warmest month ever recorded globally. • Obama becomes first president to visit Cuba since 1928. • In April release of Panama Papers exposes how some wealthy people hide their money offshore. * Paris Agreement on climate change signed in New York committing 195 nations to combat climate change. * In May over 700 people drown when three ships carrying immigrants across the Mediterranean sink. • In June Britain votes to leave European Union. • Heavy rains in Germany and France leave ten dead and close Paris museums along Seine, including  Louvre. • Hamilton wins eleven Tony awards after record sixteen nominations. • Cleveland Cavaliers win first NBA title beating defending champion Golden State Warriors. • UK votes to leave European Union. •  In July African American Alton Sterling shot by Louisiana police in Baton Rouge, while restrained on ground.  • African American Philando Castile is shot and killed by police in St Paul, Minnesota after being pulled over for broken rear light. • Pokémon Go, real-world mobile game by Niantic, is released. • In Dallas Texas, lone gunman shoots and kills five police officers, wounding others during a protest march against fatal police shootings of African Americans. • In August XXXI Summer Olympic Games officially open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. • San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick kneels in protest during US national anthem at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium while playing against the San Diego Chargers, objecting to racial injustice and police brutality in the US. • In September Pope Francis canonizes Mother Teresa. • In October Washington Post releases videotape of Donald Trump boasting of groping women without consent. • American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan awarded Nobel Prize for Literature. • In November Paris Agreement goes into effect. • Republican Donald Trump is elected president, defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton, who received 2.9 million more votes. • In December US Army decides it will not allow oil pipeline to be built in North Dakota, after months of protests by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. • CIA concludes with “high confidence” that Russia acted to help elect Donald Trump as president and that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally authorized the operation. FBI concurs that Russia interfered with presidential election. • US Electoral College votes 304 to 227 to nominate Donald Trump for president over objections of seven faithless electors. • Ebola vaccine VSV-EBOV found to be 70-100% effective in a study published in The Lancet, becoming world’s first proven vaccine against Ebola.

Did You Know?

The name “Barack” means “one who is blessed” in Swahili.

Obama was a world traveler before he even started junior high. His parents met while they were both students at the University of Hawaii. His father was born and raised in a small village in Kenya, and his mother grew up in a small town in Kansas. Obama was born in Hawaii and lived there until he was six years old. Obama’s parents separated when he was only two years old, and his mother remarried four years later. The new marriage took them to Jakarta, Indonesia, on the other side of the world from the United States. Obama learned to speak Indonesian and excelled in his Indonesian school, but his mother believed he could get an even better education in the United States. So, Obama returned to Hawaii and lived with his grandparents so he could attend a private school.

Obama has read every Harry Potter book, and he collects Spider Man and Conan the Barbarian comics.

In addition to books for adults, Obama has written a book for young people titled Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters.

Learn More

Biographical information, essays, and access to Obama’s presidential speeches sponsored by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

Field Trips for Barack Obama

Obama Presidential Center
Chicago, Illinois

When completed, the Obama Presidential Center will include a library, museum, and foundation programming on the South Side of Chicago.

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