“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress,” insightful words spoken by the 44th U.S. President, Barack Obama. Barack is the first Black American to assume the presidency in the United States and served two full terms from 2009 to 2017. Prior to becoming president, he served as an Illinois State Senator in 1997 and a U.S. Senator from Illinois in 2005. He is also a bestselling author, philanthropist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu Hawaii. His father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., was a Kenyan senior governmental economist. His mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was an anthropologist, of English decent, who specialized in the economic anthropology and rural development of Indonesia. Barack’s parents met in 1960 in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his father was a foreign student on a scholarship. The following year, the couple married in Wailuku, Hawaii and gave birth to Barack. They later divorced, and Barack’s mother married a man from Indonesia, where he spent his early childhood. Before fifth grade, he returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents and attend Punahou School on scholarship.
In his memoir Dreams from My Father (1995), Barack describes the complexities of discovering his identity in adolescence. After two years at Occidental College in Los Angeles, he transferred to Columbia University, where he studied political science and international relations. After graduating from Columbia University in 1983, he worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In 1988, he enrolled in Harvard Law School, where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. After graduating, he became a civil rights attorney and an academic, teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004.
In 1992, Barack married Michelle Robinson, a lawyer who had also excelled at Harvard Law. Their daughters, Malia and Sasha, were born in 1998 and 2001, respectively.
In 1996, he was elected as the Illinois State Senate and served the 13th district of Illinois State Senate from 1997 to 2004. When he ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack received national attention with his Democratic National Convention keynote address, and his landslide November election to the U.S. Senate. He served from 2005 to 2008.
In 2008, he was nominated by the Democratic Party for president, after a close primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. In the 2008 presidential race, Barack was elected over Republican nominee John McCain, carrying the Electoral College votes 365 to 173 to win the election and to become the nation’s first black president. He was inaugurated on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, he was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, becoming the fourth president to receive this honor.
As an incoming president, Obama faced many challenges, an economic collapse, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the continuing menace of terrorism. During his first term he signed three signature bills: an omnibus bill to stimulate the economy, The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), and legislation reforming the nation’s financial institutions. He also pressed for a fair pay act for women, financial reform legislation, and efforts for consumer protection.
In 2012, he was reelected over former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by 332 to 206 electoral votes. The Middle East remained a key foreign policy challenge. Barack had overseen the killing of Osama bin Laden by Seal Team Six, the Iran Nuclear Deal and the legalization of gay marriage by the Supreme Court. The Obama administration also adopted a climate change agreement signed by 195 nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow global warming.
In the last year of his second term, Barack spoke at two events that clearly deeply moved him. The 50th anniversary of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, and the dedication of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. “Our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer,” he said in Selma. “And that’s why we celebrate,” he told those attending the museum opening in Washington, “mindful that our work is not yet done.”
Since leaving office, Barack has remained active in Democratic politics, including campaigning for candidates in the 2018 midterm elections, appearing at the 2020 Democratic National Convention and campaigning for Biden during the 2020 presidential election. He also released a memior, A Promised Land in 2020. The memoir, which explores his experiences from his early political aspirations to his historic win in the 2008 presidential election.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”
“The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.”
“The thing about hip-hop today is it’s smart, it’s insightful. The way they can communicate a complex message in a very short space is remarkable.”
“We need to steer clear of this poverty of ambition, where people want to drive fancy cars and wear nice clothes and live in nice apartments but don’t want to work hard to accomplish these things. Everyone should try to realize their full potential.”
“The shift to a cleaner energy economy won’t happen overnight, and it will require tough choices along the way. But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact.”
“Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual. You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties.”
“I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. I am not in favor of gay marriage. But when you start playing around with constitutions, just to prohibit somebody who cares about another person, it just seems to me that’s not what America’s about. Usually, our constitutions expand liberties, they don’t contract them.”
Recreate Model: Denzel Fleming
Photographer of Recreated Photograph: Jasmine Mallory
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