At a Glance
- Career History: Member of the U.S. Senate (Jan. 2005 to Nov. 2008); Member of the Illinois State Senate (1996 to 2004); Attorney for Miner, Barnhill & Galland (1993 to 1996)
- Birthday: Aug. 4, 1961
- Hometown: Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia and lived in Chicago, Illinois
- Alma Mater: Occidental College, attended, 1981 to 1983; Columbia University, B.A., 1985; Harvard Law School, J.D., 1991
- Spouse: Michelle
- Religion: Trinity United Church of Christ
- DC Office: The White House
Path to Power
For most politicians, their stories begin after college. But Obama is different. His childhood is very much a part of his political narrative. It is a story that has been told many times before, often by Obama himself, in speeches, on the stump and in two memoirs.
Obama's father, Barack Obama Sr., grew up in Kenya, the son of a goat herder in the Luo tribe. The name Barack means "blessing from God," and the older Barack studied in a tin-roof shack. He earned a scholarship to study in America, saying that he chose the University of Hawaii because of its racial tolerance.
In some senses, Obama is an unapologetic liberal. He generally favors progressive social policy, and believes the tax code can be used to help the poor. He advocates for bigger government - in health , welfare and education policy.
But despite all of that, the former senator prefers a more pragmatic approach to politics and qualifies his support for liberal policies with a sense of social responsibility.
Many of Obama's earliest political connections come from Chicago. His wife worked for Valerie Jarrett in Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley's (D) office. He lived in the same neighborhood as Penny Pritzker, who was his national finance chairwoman during the 2008 election, and Martin Nesbitt, who was his campaign treasurer. John W. Rogers, whose ex-wife Desiree Rogers is the new White House social secretary, also lives in the Hyde Park neighborhood. In the Illinois state Senate, he became close friends with former state Senate President Emil Jones, and he also knows other prominent Illinois politicians, such as Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., from his time in Chicago.
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) encouraged Obama to run for president well before the 2008 presidential election, and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), who was also an early Obama supporter, was chosen by Obama to be secretary of Health and Human Services. Many high-level Obama administration officials including Pete Rouse and Chris Lu came from Daschle's senate staff.