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Monday, January 19, 2009

TweetThis! The biography of Barack Obama

His vitals
Born: Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, weeks before the Berlin Wall went up. "Barack" is Swahili for "blessed."
Mother: Stanley Ann Dunham (1942-95) was from Wichita, Kan., and a descendent of Jefferson Davis, the only president of the Confederate States of America. Why the name Stanley? She told friends her dad wanted a boy. She died of ovarian cancer.
Father: Barack Hussein Obama was from Kenya. He was killed in an auto accident in Kenya in 1982. His age is not clear; probably 44 at death.
Half sister: Maya Soetoro-Ng, 37.
Health profile: Good shape, trim, blood pressure 90/60. Ex-smoker since February 2007.

His early years
Indonesia: After his parents divorced, Obama's mother remarried and in 1967 moved with her son and husband to a village outside Jakarta, Indonesia. She became an anthropologist.
Obama spent his childhood playing with the children of rice farmers and rickshaw drivers, attending an Indonesian-speaking school. Every day at 5 a.m. his mother would wake him to take correspondence classes for fear he would forget English.

He returned to Hawaii in 1971 to live with his grandparents; his mother joined him later. Obama met his dad once, at age 10.
What he liked: As a child, Obama collected Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comics. As a teen he listened to jazz saxophonist Grover Washington Jr. and Earth, Wind & Fire, tooled around in an old Ford Granada, golfed, played poker, sang in the school choir and joined the school's literary journal.
Obama graduated from high school with honors.
The college years:
  • Occidental College, Los Angeles, 1979-81, studied international relations; helped organize antiapartheid protests.
  • Columbia University, New York, 1983, received a bachelor of arts degree in political science with a specialization in international relations.
  • Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., 1991, received a law degree; editor of the Harvard Law Review.
Grades: Great, graduated magna cum laude from Harvard. Worst: D in eighth-grade French.
Wife: Michelle Robinson, 44, raised in Chicago; Harvard Law School graduate.

Wedding: October 1992.

The romance: They met in 1989 at a corporate law firm. He proposed over dinner at Gordon, a restaurant in Chicago. Recalled Michelle: "Then dessert comes out, the tray comes out, and there's a ring!"

Children: Malia Ann, 10; Sasha, 7.

  • Baskin-Robbins staff.
  • Writer, financial analyst at Business International Corp., 1984-85.
  • Community organizer in Chicago's Altgeld Gardens housing project.
  • Taught at University of Chicago Law School, 1991.
  • Civil rights lawyer, 1991-96.
  • Executive director of a voting program, 1992.
  • Illinois state senator, 1997-2005.
  • U.S. senator, 2005-08.
  • President of the United States, 2009.
In "The Audacity of Hope," Obama describes his mother, raised by nonreligious parents, as detached from religion, yet "in many ways the most spiritually awakened person that I have ever known."

He describes his Kenyan father as "raised a Muslim," but a "confirmed atheist" by the time his parents met. He describes his Indonesian stepfather as "a man who saw religion as not particularly useful." Obama became a Christian while working as a neighborhood organizer in Chicago in the 1980s.
Discipline: He loves yoga.
Basketball: Loves a good pickup game. Played in high school where teammates dubbed him Barry O'Bomber. He favored a left-handed double-pump shot.

Martial arts: He's tried it, including tae kwon do.

Reading: "I spend a lot of time reading policy wonkish-type books, but if I had my druthers, I'm a fiction guy ... from Toni Morrison to E.L. Doctorow to Don DeLillo to Shakespeare."

Worst habit: "Checking my BlackBerry." Ad experts estimate photos of Obama checking his BlackBerry are worth $50 million in advertising.
Hidden talent: He's good at poker.
Defining moments
A keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention allowed Obama, little known beyond Illinois, to walk off the podium a star. Commentators and politicians touted him as a possible White House contender -- even though he still was a state lawmaker.

Part of what he said:
"It's that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper -- that makes this country work. It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. ...

"Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spinmasters 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."
Defining moment II: Obama speaking to a huge crowd in Chicago's Grant Park the night he won the election:
"There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

"But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand."

References used at the time of preparing this post were:
Photos: Various online webs via Google Images.
Text: Free Press Research.

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