Barack Obama - Biography

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Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America. The following are people affiliated with Obama throughout his life.


Early Life

Obama's parents separated when he was two years old and then divorced. Obama's father went to Harvard to pursue Ph.D. studies and then returned to Kenya. The young Barack Obama grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, seeing his father only once more when he was ten-years-old, before moving to Los Angeles to begin his high-school and tertiary education.[1]

Father: Barak Obama

Barak Obama, Sr. was born of Luo ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya. He grew up herding goats in Africa, eventually earning a scholarship that allowed him to leave Kenya and pursue his dreams of college in Hawaii. While studying at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, Obama, Sr. met fellow student, Ann Dunham. They married on February 2, 1961. Barack was born six months later in Honolulu, Hawaii. He received a Masters degree in Economics from Harvard University, then returned to Kenya, where he became a finance minister before dying in an automobile accident in 1982.[1]

Mother: Stanley Ann Dunham

Stanley Ann Dunham was born on November 29, 1942 in Wichita, Kansas. She married Barak Obama, Sr. on February 2, 1961 when she was eighteen-years-old. She gave birth to her first son, Barack Obama at the age of 18, on August 4, 1961. In 1967, following her divorce with her husband, Barak Obama Sr., she married Lolo Soetoro and the family moved to Jakarta, where Obama's half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng was born. Stanley Ann died of ovarian cancer in 1995.[1]

Birth in Hawaii

Barack Obama and his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham in Hawaii

In August, 1961, the two major Honolulu newspaper, the Advertiser and the Star-Bulletin published birth notices documenting the birth, in Honolulu, Hawaii, of a son to Mr. and Mrs. Barrack H. Obama" on August 4, 1961. Barack Obama was born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii to Stanley Ann Dunham and Barak Obama.

Parents' Divorce

In 1963, Barack's father won a scholarship to study at Harvard, but didn't have the money to take his young family with him. In Jan. 1964 Barack's mother filed for divorce, citing "grievous mental suffering," according to court documents. However Stanley Ann did not speak ill of her ex-husband to her son Barack.

Life in Indonesia

In 1967, he moved with his mother and new stepfather to Jakarta, Indonesia. He attended a Catholic elementary school for two years, followed by an Indonesian public school for two years. At these schools, classes were taught in the Indonesian language.[1] Media scrutiny revealed that the secular public school he attended was not a madrassa, which teaches Islam. On days off in observance of Islamic holidays he spent praying in a Mosque with his stepfather.[2]

Life Back in Hawaii

Barak Obama Sr. with his son, Barack Obama in 1971

Afraid for his safety and his education, Barack's mother sent him back to Hawaii when he was 10 years old, to live with his maternal grandparents Madelyn Dunham and Stanley Dunham. She and Barack's half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng later joined them.

In 1971 Barak Obama Sr. sent word from Kenya that he wished to come to Hawaii to visit his son Barack Obama. His father stayed around for one month, speaking to his son's fifth-grade class and taking him to a Dave Brubeck concert, but never quite reestablished himself.[3]


Tertiary Education

After high school, Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York, graduating in 1983 with a degree in political science.[1]

After returning from Kenya and working as a community organizer in New York City and Chicago, Illinois, Obama enrolled at Harvard Law School in 1988. He became a member of the Harvard Law Review, which uses racial quotas, in 1989. He was then elected by popular vote as its first African American president in 1990, a story that was immediately promoted in the New York Times.[4] He graduated magna cum laude with his J.D. in 1991, but did not serve in a clerkship. Federal clerkships are the typical post-graduate position for top law students.

At Occidental College

Obama studied at Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years. Dr. John Drew was a classmate of Obama's at Occidental College. He was interviewed in mid-October 2010 week by Paul Kengor on The Glen Meakem Show. What follows is excerpts from the transcript of the interview:[5]

Kengor: "I interviewed you for my book Dupes a year ago and you had contact me a couple of years ago because you read a piece that I wrote for American Thinker and it was called "Dreams from Frank Marshall Davis" and it was on Obama's background and youth. Frank Marshall Davis was an actual Party member and that's something, John, I spent two or three years on investigating, but there's no question about it... the documentation is there, a 1957 Senate report called him "and identified member of the Communist Party", there's an FBI file that's 600 pages, and I took ten or twelve pages from that report and put it in the appendix of my book. It even lists Davis' Communist Party card number, which was 47544, so very clear. Why is all of this relevant? Well, I think it explains, at least to some degree, that -- if he's not a Communist, he's at least very far to the left -- and has some very left-oriented views. But you met Obama when he left Frank Marshall Davis in 1980 coming from Hawaii and went to Occidental College. So tell us about when Obama got there and when you met."
Drew: "I see myself as Barack Obama's missing link from his exposure to Communism through Frank Marshall Davis and his later exposure to Bill Ayers and Alice Palmer in Chicago. So, as far as I can tell, I'm the only one of Obama's extended circle of friends who's spoken out and verified that he was a Marxist-Leninist in his sophomore year of college, from 1980 to 1981.
...Yeah, my sense is because of affirmative action, guys like me were going to Occidental instead of even better schools and guys like Obama were going to Occidental instead of, uh, less challenging schools. A lot of very successful people were there, were part of Obama's social circle at the time."
Kengor: "Now, was Occidental known for radical left politics? Would that have been an attraction for Obama?"
Drew: "Yeah, I'm certain that it was. It was considered sort of the "Moscow" of southern California. There were a lot of Marxist professors, many of whom I got to know pretty well, not just there but also at Williams College in Massachusetts. Two of the same Marxist-Socialist professors were on the staff with me at Williams.
Kengor: "So, that might have been an attraction for him? I'm trying to think, what would have made him go to Hawaii to Occidental? Do you think Frank Marshall Davis could somehow have been an influence in having him choose Occidental?"
Drew: "I don't have any evidence of that..."
Kengor: "Because they won't release his records, I called them --"
Drew: "Yeah, I think that's odd. I don't know, I got straight A's my first year, it sounds weird, but I don't talk about it, Paul, you'd think that if Obama did well he'd release those transcripts."
Kengor: "Now, this is speculation, but do you think those files might hold a letter of recommendation from Frank Marshall Davis? Right? Why not?"
Drew: "Wow."
Kengor: "Davis was a mentor. Davis writes about him in Dreams From My Father very warmly, in fact Obama writes that Davis gave him advice on women, on race, on life, on college. So, he must have recommended Occidental, but it's sad we have to speculate. If they'd just release these records..."
Drew: "Well, this is what I know for sure, and this is why I'd sought you out, to be helpful to the historic record, is to verify that Barack Obama was definitely a Marxist and that, it was very unusual for a sophomore to be as radical, or as ideologically attuned as young Barack Obama was. I think people like David Remnick [a biographer], they make it sound like Frank Marshall Davis had no impact on Obama and that his friend Mohammed Shandu somehow converted him to Marxism at Occidental. And my impression is that Obama was the leader of that group and Obama was already very ardent and committed to Marxism. And Shandu struck me as somewhat more passive. So it doesn't fit the story that I read in Remnick's story The Bridge."
Kengor: "And Remnick did not contact you, did he?"
Drew: "No! No! ...Well, Remnick interviewed my girfriend, Carolyn Bosch -- she's on three or four pages -- and they interviewed a guy named Gary Chapman, a guy who was very active in the Democrat Student [Socialists'] Alliance."
Kengor: "I like David Remnick. I use his book in my Compartive Studies class at Grove City College."
Drew: "He's a sharp guy. And he's got some good facts in there, but he didn't want to hear from little Dr. Drew..."
Kengor: "...You said that Obama was introduced to you at Occidental as a Marxist because you were one at that point."
Drew: "Yeah, that's embarrassing, but I had studied Marxist Economics at Sussex College in England. I had a junior year scholarship over there, and did my senior honor's thesis on Marxist Economics when I was at Occidental College. And I actually founded the Democrat Student Socialists' Alliance, under a different name, in 1976... it was as Marxist as you could get, but they come up with a more general name while I was away in England."
Kengor: "...John, you had told me before, and I'm reading from my book, that "Obama was already an ardent Marxist in the fall of 1980 when I met him. I know it's incendiary to say this, but although he said in Dreams From My Father that he'd 'hung out with Marxist professors', he did not explain in that book or clarify is that he was 100% in total agreement with those professors."
Drew: "Yeah, you've got that exactly right. Obama believed, at the time I met him, this was probably around Christmas time in 1980. I'd flown out on Christmas break from Cornell, where I was in grad school. And Obama was looking forward to an imminent social revolution, literally a movement where the working classes would overthrow the ruling class and institute a kind of socialist Utopia in the United States. I mean, that's how extreme his views were his sophomore year of college."
...I was a comrade, but I was more... the Frankfort School of Marxism at the time. I was, I felt like I was doing him a favor by pointing out that the Marxist revolution that he and Caroline and Shandu were hoping for was really kind of a pipe-dream. And that there was nothing in European history, or the history of developed nations, that would make that sort of fantasy, that Frank Marshall Davis fantasy of revolution, come true."
Kengor: "So you had a realistic sense that, even though you liked these ideas, that you knew they wouldn't really work?"
Drew: "Right... [There were some] who were puzzled why they didn't see Marx's predictions come true, and weren't interested in the role of psychology or false consciousness in preventing a revolution from happening. I was a card-carrying Marxist, but I was more of an east coast, Cornell University Marxist at that time."
Kengor: "But Obama thought it was practical. He thought it could happen in America?"
Drew: "Oh, yeah! He thought I was a little reactionary... or insensitive to the coming needs of the revolution! He was full-bore, 100% into that very, kind of simple-minded Marxist revolutionary framework."
Kengor: "And, also at this time, this is 1981, Jimmy Carter was President [?] and Ronald Reagan was yet to call the Soviet Union 'the Evil Empire' when he becomes President. Did you have talk about the election, about Reagan. I mean, that must have really upset Obama?"
Drew: "You know, it's so long ago. My clearest recollection was that we were more concerned with more U.S. intervention in Latin America and the repression of Communist and Socialist forces like the Sandanistas and things like that... this sound weird, but there was part of me at the time that was ready to go off and fight with the Sandanistas against the Contras. I was pretty crazy, Paul..."
Kengor: "Now this gets to a critical point and I know Obama supporters want me to ask this... to be fair, look where you were then and where you are today..."
Drew: "Oh, yeah. Now I'm a Ronald Reagan, church-going, Baptist conservative, so..."
Kengor: "So, what about Obama. That's the... trillion dollar question? ...We have to know this stuff about our Presidents, you can't leave this about biographies..."
Drew: "Well, I think that he, I've challenged President Obama to explain how he evolved this Marxist-Leninist viewpoint he had in his sophomore year of college. And he's just never articulated how he changed. In fact, he's buried and, I think, lied about his ideological convictions of his youth. And we can trace it all the way to Alice Palmer, I think, in 1995 [the Illinois state senator who he replaced]... who attended the Communist Party "Politburo" event. Or she was part of a big international Communist convention in Moscow!"
Kengor: "...And Palmer was with Obama in the living room of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn when -- and The New York Times even wrote about this -- there was sort of a political blessing, where Palmer identified Obama as his chosen successor..."
Drew: "...Well, I think I can knock down some doors here but stating that he had a very consistent ideology, I think, probably from the time he was in [Hawaii] to the time he was with Palmer and Ayers in Chicago. I think his current behavior demonstrates that he still has some ideological convictions. When ever he talks about taxing the richest two-percent? I think he knows that will harm the economy. To him, the redistribution of wealth is extremely important. And he never took economics or science like I did. He went straight to law school, never had any business experience, never had a payroll to meet. And I think he's locked in a very dangerous mindset, where if he didn't fight to redistribute the wealth that he'd be violating [his] ideology.
...You see people like Van Jones, who's an admitted Communist, you see Anita Dunn, who's praising Mao Tse-Tung, to me, it's like Obama's Marxist-Socialist ideology is hiding in plain sight! It's frustrating to me. It seems to me like people should be up in arms about this!
...I think whenever he talks about people clinging to their guns and religions due to economic stress, that's just the standard Marxist argument... he's still using the standard Marxist architecture, the way he talks about things. I think he's surrounded by people who share that mental architecture!
...I feel like our nation's life is at stake."

Contacted ANC

Barack Obama, a sophomore at Occidental College in 1981, considered a rally supporting demands that the trustees there divest stocks of companies doing business in South Africa his first foray into politics. He also contacted representatives of the African National Congress asking them to speak on campus, drafted letters to the faculty, printed up flyers and argued strategy.[6]

Move to Chicago

When Barack Obama was 22 years old, just out of Columbia University, he took a $10,000-a-year job as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. "It was a shrewd move for a young black man with an interest in politics..."

The politician who truly set the stage for Obama's rise was also a South Side congressman Harold Washington, who was elected mayor of Chicago in 1983...In New York, Obama read about Washington's victory and wrote to City Hall, asking for a job. He never heard back, but he made it to Chicago just months after Washington took office...[7].

Sidley Austin

Michelle Obama, Obama's wife

In 1988, Obama left for Harvard Law School, returning to Chicago twice for summer stints at élite law firms, including, after his first year, Sidley Austin-where he met Michelle Robinson, later Michelle Obama.[8] He returned to Chicago permanently when he graduated, in 1991.

Marriage to Michelle Robinson

In 1989 Obama met Michelle Robinson, an associate at Sidley & Austin law firm in Chicago. She was assigned to be Obama's adviser during a summer internship at the firm, and soon the couple began dating.

On October 3, 1992, Barack and Michelle were married by Reverend Jeremiah Wright at Trinity United Church of Christ.

The newly married Barack and Michelle Obama moved to Kenwood, on Chicago's South Side, where they had two daughters: Malia (born July 4, 1998) and Sasha (born June 10, 2001).

Their two daughters currently attend Sidwell Friends School, a Quaker private school located in Washington, D.C. The school has been popular with past presidents and other high-ranking government personnel.


When Obama was named president of the Harvard Law Review, in 1990, he was profiled by, among others, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times, the Tribune, Vanity Fair, and the Associated Press.[8]


After law school, Obama returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer, joining the firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland. He also taught at the University of Chicago Law School, and helped organize voter registration drives during Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign.

Obama has described himself as a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School. He held the position of Lecturer, an adjunct position, from 1992 to 1996. He held the position of Senior Lecturer from 1996 until his election to the senate in 2004. From 1991 - 1997 he taught alongside professor Elena Kagan. He also taught alongside Anne-Marie Slaughter from 1992 - 1994.[9]

Obama's advocacy work would later lead him to run for the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat, where he was elected in 1996.


In his autobiographical book, The Audacity of Hope, Obama wrote that he "was not raised in a religious household".

Speaking of his faith in an article in TIME Magazine in 2006, Obama stated,

"I [am not] sure what happens when we die, any more than I [am] sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the Big Bang."[10]

During his time working as a community organizer for low-income residents in the Roseland and the Altgeld Gardens communities, Obama joined the Trinity United Church of Christ. Obama has stated that he became a Christian around 1987, stating in his address to the participants in the annual National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington on Feb. 5, 2009:

"I didn’t become a Christian until many years later, when I moved to the South Side of Chicago after college. It happened not because of indoctrination or a sudden revelation, but because I spent month after month working with church folks who simply wanted to help neighbors who were down on their luck – no matter what they looked like, or where they came from, or who they prayed to. It was on those streets, in those neighborhoods, that I first heard God’s spirit beckon me. It was there that I felt called to a higher purpose – His purpose.
...For it is only through common struggle and common effort, as brothers and sisters, that we fulfill our highest purpose as beloved children of God. I ask you to join me in that effort, and I also ask that you pray for me, for my family, and for the continued perfection of our union."

Obama also mentioned at the prayer-meeting that faith had always been a guiding force in his family’s life.[11]

In 1988 Obama was baptized at the Trinity United Church of Christ.[12]


Small-towners "cling to guns or religion"

On April 16, 2008, Obama attempted to explain what he meant when he suggested earlier that month that small-town people of modest means "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them" out of frustration with their place in a changing American economy. He acknowledged that his wording had offended some voters.[13]