The story of Barack Obama
Born in Honolulu
Why his father left home
The new life of Obama's father in Kenya
The elder Obama's early and tragic death
The little time they had together
Obama's childhood years in Indonesia
An American high school
The tragedy of Obama and his mother
From high school to Columbia University
He could have been a financial analyst in New York, but...
Social work and conversion to Protestantism
Pastor Jeremiah Wright
A Harvard Law man and a university professor
Michelle was his mentor
From their first date to marriage
The full names of their daughters
Behind every great man stands a strong woman
What he did as an Illinois Senator
A fine strategist
National notoriety: Afghanistan
Remember his speech of 2004?
The only African-American man in the Senate
The first Black president in U.S. history
'Yes we can!'
Were they the youngest family in the White House?
Kennedy was younger
Guantanamo Bay
One of his most important speeches was in... Cairo
An important Supreme Court appointment
How about that Nobel Peace Prize, early in his presidency?
Obamacare
Publishing his birth certificate
The death of Bin Laden
Hurricane Sandy: praise from unexpected critics
Nelson Mandela Prison Tour
Same-sex marriage made legal across the country
Iranian civilian nuclear deal
The president's tears
The most famous mic drop
The first American president in Hiroshima
His farewell to Europe
Was he that popular?
Passing the White House to Donald Trump
Retirement
A media man
He's a 60-plusser now
Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(1/48)
The story of Barack Obama

Barack Obama and his family (with daughter Sasha on the left and Malia on the right of this photo) have become iconic figures in American and world history. Let's have a look at Barack Obama's life story, including facts about the former U.S. President that you may not know about.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(2/48)
Born in Honolulu

Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His father (Barack Obama Sr.) was a Kenyan economist of the Luo ethnicity and his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was an American student (anthropology) of Irish descent.

(Photo: the Kenyan family of Barack Obama, by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(3/48)
Why his father left home

In 1963, his father got a position at Harvard University. He left Hawaii for the Massachusetts-based institute on his own, because his scholarship did not provide for the needs of his wife and son. Barack Jr. and his mother stayed behind in Honolulu. In 1964, his parents divorced.

(Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(4/48)
The new life of Obama's father in Kenya

Obama's father would die in Kenya after a life of little contact with his son. He had moved to the African country after graduating from Harvard and started a career with the national government. Obama Sr. had also started a new family there.

(Photo: Barack Obama's half-brother Malik at his home in Kogelo, Kenya, by Jahi Chikwendiu/Getty)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(5/48)
The elder Obama's early and tragic death

After disagreements between Obama Sr. and the Kenyan government, the father of Barack Obama became a pariah in the Kenyan public sector. A mix of alcoholism and poverty led to his demise. In 1982, he would die in a tragic car accident without ever knowing about the political future of his son.

(Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(6/48)
The little time they had together

Barack Obama Sr. lived briefly in Hawaii in 1971 and 1972. Those months in Honolulu were the only opportunity for his 10-year-old son to spend time with his father. Ten years later, Barack Sr. would pass away.

(Photo from Barack Obama's 2008 campaign site)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(7/48)
Obama's childhood years in Indonesia

In the meantime, while 'Barry' was still very young, his mother married an Indonesian student (Lolo Soetoro) and followed him to his home country in the mid-1960s. For four years, the city of Jakarta was young Barry Obama's home. His neighbourhood, Taman Menteng, later built a statue of the young Barack to commemorate his years there.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(8/48)
An American high school

In 1971,Barack Obama returned to Hawaii to live with his grandparent, because his mother wanted him to go to an American high school. The following year, Ann separated from her Indonesian partner and joined her family again in Hawaii.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(9/48)
The tragedy of Obama and his mother

Obama's time with his mum was short. She returned to Indonesia when Barack was 14 years old, because her studies in anthropology required her to do fieldwork there. Afterwards, she would stay in the country for years to do charitable work. Eventually, Obama's mother died in Hawaii from ovarian cancer at age 52. Up until today, Obama regrets not having been by her side at the time of her death.

(Image from an exhibition by neighbours of Obama's family in Honolulu, Hawaii, via The Daily Mail)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(10/48)
From high school to Columbia University

In 1983, Barack Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York with a degree in political science and international relations.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(11/48)
He could have been a financial analyst in New York, but...

After his studies, Barack Obama stayed in New York to work for a multinationals' consultancy firm. His job as a financial analysts didn't really appeal to him, though, and he left the company to devote himself to community work. That's how Obama ended up in Chicago, recruited by activist Jerry Kellman.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(12/48)
Social work and conversion to Protestantism

As he was working in a black and underprivileged neighbourhood in Chicago in 1985, Barack Obama converted to Protestantism. He had been an atheist all his life. It was Pastor Jeremiah Wright from the United Church of Christ who convinced him.

 

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(13/48)
Pastor Jeremiah Wright

At a later point, during his presidential campaign, Obama's connection to the controversial pastor would be heavily criticized by his political opponents and he would end up breaking with him altogether.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(14/48)
A Harvard Law man and a university professor

In 1987, Obama went to study in the prestigious Harvard Law programme. He graduated in 1990, having become the first African-American editor-in-chief of the famous Harvard Law Review. Thanks to his excellent credentials, the future U.S. President then became a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(15/48)
Michelle was his mentor

While teaching at university, Barack Obama joined the civil rights law firm Sidley Austin. It was there that he met the associate attorney and jurist Michelle Robinson, who would be his future wife. At first, she was his mentor within the firm, though.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(16/48)
From their first date to marriage

For their first date, Barack invited Michelle to see Spike Lee's movie 'Do The Right Thing' (1989). A little more than two years later, they get married.

(Image: IG @michelleobama)

 

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(17/48)
The full names of their daughters

Michelle and Barack Obama had two daughters: Malia Ann, born in 1998, and Natasha - Sasha - who was born in 2001.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(18/48)
Behind every great man stands a strong woman

Over time, Michelle became a renowned lawyer and an influential figure in the local Democratic Party. She was close to Chicago's mayor, Richard M. Daley, and this connection helped propel Barack's political career.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(19/48)
What he did as an Illinois Senator

In 1996, Barack Obama was elected state senator for Illinois' 13th district, which included the South Side and Hyde Park in Chicago. He advocated legislation to extend medical coverage to the most disadvantaged, defended the rights of the LGBTQ community, and helped increase funding to fight AIDS.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(20/48)
A fine strategist

He made an impression by obtaining the votes of Republicans for laws against racial profiling, for the video surveillance of police interrogations, and a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois. Of course, he accepted compromises from their end too, and his moderate politics caused him to lose the 2000 Democratic primaries for the 1st district against Bobby Rush, a former member of the Black Panther Party.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(21/48)
National notoriety: Afghanistan "a stupid war"

Obama became known to a wider public when he spoke out against the war in Afghanistan in 2002 (and later against the Iraq war of 2003). "I am not someone who opposes war in all circumstances," he said in 2002, but he added: "I am opposed to a stupid war, not based on reason, but on passion, not on principles, but on politics."
The Bush administration's wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were approved by a large Senate majority at the time, and Obama's criticism earned him notoriety at a national level.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(22/48)
Remember his speech of 2004?

That same year, he announced his candidacy for the United States Senate. In July 2004 he gave a famous speech, “The Audacity of Hope," where he spoke about the American dream, recalled his family origins, and denounced the “extremism” of George W. Bush. The speech was often repeated in the media and is now considered historic.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(23/48)
The only African-American man in the Senate

In 2004, he was elected to the United States Senate with 70% of the vote, compared to 27% for his Republican opponent, the African-American former ambassador and conservative political columnist Alan Keyes. When he was sworn in on January 4, 2005, he became the only African-American to sit in the Senate, and the fifth in history.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(24/48)
The first Black president in U.S. history

In February 2007, Barack announced his candidacy for the presidential nomination. He had to compete in the Democratic primaries with Hillary Clinton, a favourite, and then with Republican opponent John McCain, a veteran of war and politics.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(25/48)
'Yes we can!'

What helped him succeed was Obama's appeal to young people, as well as his optimism in a time of economic crisis - 'Yes we can!'. Barack Obama went on to become the first black president in the history of the United States.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(26/48)
Were they the youngest family in the White House?

This is Obama when he won the Presidential Election in 2008. His daughters Malia and Sasha, 10 and 7 at the time, were among the youngest children to ever inhabit the White House.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(27/48)
Kennedy was younger

Although Barack Obama was a young president at age 47, he wasn't the youngest ever. John F. Kenney had been 43 when he became president, and his kids had been 3 and 1 years old. He and Jackie Onassis were champions of youthfulness.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(28/48)
Guantanamo Bay

As soon as he came to power in January 2009, Obama banned the use of torture, in particular “waterboarding," which had become a common practice in the war on terror after 9/11. After his presidency Obama would be criticized, however, for failing to close Guantanamo Bay, the detention camp for unconvicted terrorism suspects, altogether. It was a campaign promise he had not manage to keep.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(29/48)
One of his most important speeches was in... Cairo

President Obama gave one of his main speeches in Cairo in June 2009. His greeting in Arabic - “Salam aleikum,”  “Peace be with you” - in front of 1.5 billion Muslims made a great impact. Obama also called for an end to “the cycle of mistrust and discord" between Muslim and Western nations.

(Image: Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State during part Obama's presidency, from 2009 to 2013)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(30/48)
An important Supreme Court appointment

In August 2009, Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court: she was the first Hispanic person to sit in the court.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(31/48)
How about that Nobel Peace Prize, early in his presidency?

Thanks to “his extraordinary efforts in favor of strengthening diplomacy and international cooperation between peoples," Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize in December 2009.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(32/48)
Obamacare

President Obama's most iconic reform would be signed on March 24, 2010. Obamacare was meant to help the general public benefit from health coverage. In later years, President Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress would try anything to undo Obamacare - if only by changing its name.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(33/48)
Publishing his birth certificate

In 2011, Donald Trump, at that point merely a 'concerned citizen,' launched a controversy over the birthplace of Barack Obama. He argued that the President was not born in the U.S. but in Kenya. Obama proceeded to release his birth certificate, stating that he was born in the American state of Hawaii.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(34/48)
The death of Bin Laden

Live from the Situation Room of the White House, the president followed the raid against the man responsible for the September 11, attacks. Osama bin Laden was killed in his hiding place on May 1, 2011.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(35/48)
Hurricane Sandy: praise from unexpected critics

In October 2012, Hurricane Sandy killed nearly 200 people in the United States. President Obama would later be praised for his handling of the crisis, even by Chris Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey and one of his main opponents.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(36/48)
Nelson Mandela Prison Tour

In 2013, at the beginning of his second term, President Obama went to see the prison of Nelson Mandela on the South African Robben Island. Mandela had spent 18 of his 27 years in the small prison cell that Obama visited. “It is with humility that we stand here," he said, "where men of such courage have faced injustice and refused to bow."

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(37/48)
Same-sex marriage made legal across the country

In June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states of the country. “Today marks a big step in our march towards equality," the president rejoiced.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(38/48)
"Amazing Grace": a historic moment

It was in the same month of June 2015 that Barack Obama took part in another historic event. A mass shooting had killed eight people in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, including the Reverend Clementa Pinckney. As he attended the funeral of the pastor, Barack Obama sang "Amazing Grace" in front of all churchgoers. It was a first for a president.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(39/48)
Iranian civilian nuclear deal

The summer of 2015 was a busy one. In July, Obama announced the signing of an Iranian civilian nuclear agreement. It provided for the gradual and conditional lifting of sanctions against Iran in exchange for the guarantee that Tehran will not acquire atomic weapons.
As was Obamacare, the Iran deal would be heavily attacked by Obama's successor, Donald Trump.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(40/48)
The president's tears

After yet another mass shooting, this time in the Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, the president got very emotional in public. It was January 2016 and the attack had killed 25 children. With tears coming from his eyes, Obama stressed “the urgency” to impose stricter laws on the use of guns. He spoke as a father as well as a president.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(41/48)
The most famous mic drop

After his last speech at the Correspondents' dinner, a yearly event in which the media and the president make fun of each other, Obama closed his performance as a real, streetwise comedian. He said famously, “Obama out," and dropped his microphone. The performance assured his popularity among a young audience for many years to come.

(Photo: still from video released by the White House, archive.org)

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(42/48)
The first American president in Hiroshima

During this visit to Japan in 2016, Barack Obama paid an emotional tribute to the victims of the first nuclear attack in history: the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(43/48)
His farewell to Europe

He also travelled to Berlin in November 2016 to bid farewell to Europe. Obama called German chancellor Angela Merkel “an extraordinary partner." The two leaders especially effective together during the management of the financial crisis of 2009 and the war in Ukraine.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(44/48)
Was he that popular?

In July 2016, Obama's popularity level exceeded 51%, and during the last days of his mandate, it even rose to 60%. On average, however, his level of approval has been quite normal among U.S. presidents. In fact, Clinton, Reagan, and Roosevelt scored higher than Obama on their last days, the Gallup polls show.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(45/48)
Passing the White House to Donald Trump

On November 8, 2016, Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States. His reception at the White House by outgoing President Barack Obama was a bit awkward, as the two presidents were immensely different from each other. That day, January 20, 2017, was the start of a new, radically different era.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(46/48)
Retirement

After leaving office, Obama began giving lectures and setting up tours, books, films and podcasts. He regularly speaks out about gun control, but on other political topics he has stayed quiet. Overall, the former U.S. President prefers to talk about lighter subjects, like his favourite music or his daily life with the family.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(47/48)
A media man

The Obama family (including Malia and Sasha, who reached college age) have begun to try and change the world through media projects. Their 'Higher Ground' production company is behind various documentaries and educational programmes for Netflix. So even though Barack Obama has left politics, he's not gone altogether.

Obama: little known or disputed facts about the former U.S. President
(48/48)
He's a 60-plusser now

You may have caught the news that Barack Obama turned 60 this August of 2021. It's a considerable milestone, but it probably doesn't mean that one of the U.S.'s youngest presidents in history is going to withdraw into his mansion from now on.

See also: the Obama family and their media productions after the presidency

Más para ti