(44th President of the United States, 2009-2017)
Barack Hussein Obama II (born August 4, 1961) is an American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African-American president of the United States. He previously served as a U.S. senator from Illinois from 2005 to 2008 and as an Illinois state senator from 1997 to 2004.
Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. 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. Turning to elective politics, he represented the 13th district in the Illinois Senate from 1997 until 2004, when he ran for the U.S. Senate. Obama received national attention in 2004 with his March Senate primary win, his well-received July Democratic National Convention keynote address, and his landslide November election to the Senate. In 2008, he was nominated by the Democratic Party for president a year after beginning his campaign, and after a close primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Obama was elected over Republican nominee John McCain in the general election and was inaugurated alongside his running mate, Joe Biden, on January 20, 2009. Nine months later, he was named the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Obama signed many landmark bills into law during his first two years in office. The main reforms that were passed include the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as ACA or “Obamacare”), although without a public health insurance option, the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 served as economic stimuli amidst the Great Recession. After a lengthy debate over the national debt limit, he signed the Budget Control and the American Taxpayer Relief Acts. In foreign policy, he increased U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, reduced nuclear weapons with the United States–Russia New START treaty, and ended military involvement in the Iraq War. He ordered military involvement in Libya for the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 1973, contributing to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. He also ordered the military operation that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.
After winning re-election by defeating Republican opponent Mitt Romney, Obama was sworn in for a second term in 2013. During this term, he promoted inclusion for LGBT Americans. His administration filed briefs that urged the Supreme Court to strike down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional (United States v. Windsor and Obergefell v. Hodges); same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015 after the Court ruled so in Obergefell. He advocated for gun control in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, indicating support for a ban on assault weapons, and issued wide-ranging executive actions concerning global warming and immigration. In foreign policy, he ordered successful military interventions in Iraq and Syria in response to gains made by ISIL after the 2011 withdrawal from Iraq, continued the process of ending U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan in 2016, promoted discussions that led to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change, initiated sanctions against Russia following the invasion in Ukraine and again after interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, brokered the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran, and normalized U.S. relations with Cuba. Obama nominated three justices to the Supreme Court: Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan were confirmed as justices, while Merrick Garland faced partisan obstruction from the Republican-led Senate led by Mitch McConnell, which never held hearings or a vote on the nomination. Obama left office in January 2017 and continues to reside in Washington, D.C.
During Obama’s terms in office, the United States’ reputation abroad, as well as the American economy, significantly improved. Obama’s presidency has generally been regarded favorably, and evaluations of his presidency among historians, political scientists, and the general public frequently place him among the upper tier of American presidents.
Upon taking office in 2009, Obama expressed support for reinstating the Federal Assault Weapons Ban; but did not make a strong push to pass it-or any new gun control legislation early on in his presidency. During his first year in office, Obama signed into law two bills containing amendments reducing restrictions on gun owners, one which permitted guns to be transported in checked baggage on Amtrak trains and another allowing the concealed carry of loaded firearms in National Parks, located in states where concealed carry was permitted.
Following the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, Obama outlined a series of sweeping gun control proposals, urging Congress to reintroduce an expired ban on “military-style” assault weapons, impose limits on ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, require universal background checks for all domestic gun sales, ban the possession and sale of armor-piercing bullets and introduce harsher penalties for gun-traffickers. Despite Obama’s advocacy and subsequent mass shootings, no major gun control bill passed Congress during Obama’s presidency. Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) attempted to pass a more limited gun control measure that would have expanded background checks, but the bill was blocked in the Senate.
In his speeches as president, Obama did not make more overt references to race relations than his predecessors, but according to one study, he implemented stronger policy action on behalf of African-Americans than any president since the Nixon era.
Following Obama’s election, many pondered the existence of a “postracial America.” However, lingering racial tensions quickly became apparent, and many African-Americans expressed outrage over what they saw as “racial venom” directed at Obama’s presidency. In July 2009, prominent African-American Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., was arrested at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home by a local police officer, sparking a controversy after Obama stated that the police acted “stupidly” in handling the incident. To reduce tensions, Obama invited Gates and the police officer to the White House in what became known as the “Beer Summit”. Several other incidents during Obama’s presidency sparked outrage in the African-American community and/or the law enforcement community, and Obama sought to build trust between law enforcement officials and civil rights activists. The acquittal of George Zimmerman following the killing of Trayvon Martin sparked national outrage, leading to Obama giving a speech in which he noted that “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.” The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri sparked a wave of protests. These and other events led to the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement, which campaigns against violence and systemic racism toward black people. Some in the law enforcement community criticized Obama’s condemnation of racial bias after incidents in which police action led to the death of African-American men, while some racial justice activists criticized Obama’s expressions of empathy for the police. Though Obama entered office reluctant to talk about race, by 2014 he began openly discussing the disadvantages faced by many members of minority groups. In a March 2016 Gallup poll, nearly one third of Americans said they worried “a great deal” about race relations, a higher figure than in any previous Gallup poll since 2001.
Notable black deaths by U.S. Police
during his Presidency: