Barack Obama

Published On: Oct 17 2011 03:53:06 PM EDT
Updated On: Jan 10 2012 05:43:30 PM EST

Jim Young/Reuters

The nation's first black president, Barack Obama rode a euphoric wave of "Yes we can" into the White House in 2008, although his approval ratings have plummeted in recent years as the economy continues to struggle and unemployment remains high.

He formally declared his intention to run for re-election in April 2011.

Born Barack Hussein Obama on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu to Ann Dunham and Barack Obama, Sr. Dunham, grew up in Wichita, Kan., where her father worked on oil rigs during the Depression.

Obama, Sr., was born of Luo ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya, and met Obama's mother while studying at the University of Hawaii in Manoa. They married in February 1961, but divorced when he was a young child. Obama's father died in a car accident in 1982.

In 1966, Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, another East–West Center student from Indonesia. A year later, the family moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where Obama's half-sister Maya Soetoro Ng was born. Several incidents in Indonesia left Dunham afraid for her son's safety and education so, at the age of 10, Barack was sent back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents. His mother and sister later joined them.

While living with his grandparents, Obama enrolled in the esteemed Punahou Academy, excelling in basketball and graduating with academic honors in 1979.

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.

After working in the business sector for two years, Obama moved to Chicago in 1985. There, he worked on the South Side as a community organizer for low-income residents in the Roseland and the Altgeld Gardens communities.

He entered Harvard Law School in 1988 and met Michelle Robinson, an associate at Sidley & Austin law firm in Chicago, the next year. The two married on Oct. 3, 1992. They moved to Kenwood, on Chicago's South Side, and welcomed two daughters: Malia (born 1998) and Sasha (born 2001).

Obama's advocacy work led him to run for the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat. He won election in 1996 and, four years later, made an unsuccessful Democratic primary run for the U. S. House of Representatives.

Undeterred, he ran for U.S. Senate in 2004 and beat diplomat and former presidential candidate Alan Keyes.

In February 2007, Obama made headlines when he announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. After being locked in a tight battle with Hillary Clinton, Obama won the Democratic bid and then defeated GOP nominee John McCain in a historic victory, becoming the country's first African-American president.

As president, Obama signed economic stimulus legislation in the form of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and the Job Creation Act in 2010. He also signed his controversial health care reform package into law, repealed the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and ordered the military operation that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in May 2011.

Recent polls, however, put his approval ratings at around 40 percent as concerns mount over the country's struggling economy.

On The Issues:

Defense --Obama came through on a campaign promise to end the war in Iraq, and was behind the May 2011 operation that killed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden. He's also laid out plans to begin troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.

Energy -- Obama wants to raise fuel efficiency standards, and has doubled the number of hybrid vehicles in the federal government's fleet. In 2010, he announced a decision to expand domestic offshore oil and gas exploration in Alaska, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and off the east coast of the United States.

Health Care -- Congress passed Obama's landmark health care reform law in March 2010. The package expanded health care access to the uninsured, did away with preexisting condition stipulations, made insurance companies pay for more services and requires all Americans to buy health insurance by 2014 or face penalties.

Jobs -- In response to the recession, Obama signed into law an economic stimulus package shortly after taking office featuring large amounts of infrastructure spending, funding for states, tax cuts and other stimulative measures. After the 2010 midterm elections,

Sources: New York Times, www.biography.com, www.barackobama.com

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