President Barack Obama 

Overview: Barack Obama was the first African-American President of the United States.  He did a number of things to make America a better place: 

  Helped end the Great Recession and get millions of people jobs.
  Fought to get 20 million Americans healthcare.
  Helped end the war in Iraq.
  Helped gay people be able to get married and serve in the military.
  Protected immigrant kids from being deported.
  Helped create rules that made banks safer.
  Worked to protect the environment.

President Barack Obama tried to help the people who needed help the most. Most Americans think his eight years in the White House made our country a better place.  

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Barack Obama was the 44th U.S. President. He was the first African-American President. He was 47 years old when he took office. He served for two terms, from 2009 to 2017.   

He won running against John McCain for his first term. He beat Mitt Romney for his second term. His Vice-President for both terms was Joe Biden 

Obama was born on August 4, 1961, in Hawaii. In his early life, he lived in both Hawaii and Indonesia. His white mother was Stanley Ann Dunham, who was from Kansas. His black father, Barack Obama, Sr., was from Kenya. After his mother divorced and remarried, Obama returned to Hawaii. He was raised, from that point forward, by his grandparents.   

After high school, he first went to Occidental College. He then went to Columbia, getting a degree in political science. Five years later, he went to Harvard Law School, until 1991.   

During his college years, he learned about business, research, and community work. He also wrote a book called Dreams From My Father, who he had been unable to spend much time with while growing up.   

He then taught law for 12 years, while also working as a lawyer. He married his wife Michelle in 1992. Their love story has been made into a well-known movie. They have two daughters, Malia (born 1998), and Sasha (born 2001).   

In 1996, Obama began his political career. He became a State Senator in Illinois. He served there for 8 years. Then in 2004, he became a U.S. Senator from Illinois. He started his run for President in 2007. His platform was based on the themes of hope and change.   

It was a close race against former First Lady and New York Senator, Hillary Clinton. But Obama became the Democrats’ choice to run for the nation’s highest office.   

When Obama took office, there were two very urgent issues. First, the U.S. economy was facing one of its worst times in history. He pushed for higher taxes, and he brought forward programs to try to improve the economy. Many argue that the economy stayed sluggish. But by the time he left office, the jobless rate had dropped to a low 4.7%.   

Second, he became president while the U.S. was in two wars in the Middle East. Enough U.S. troops came home, that the Iraq War was declared over. In Afghanistan, though, 2010 (his 2nd year in office) was thought to be the worst year of that war. But on the good side, one of the U.S.’s strongest enemies, Osama Bin Laden, was brought to justice.   

One of the big events of his presidency was the passage of “Obamacare.” The goal was to provide good health care insurance for all Americans. Though many people thought it was good for the country, many disagreed with it. They tried to fight against it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the court ruled it legal, so it became law.   

Another big change was a new approach with Cuba. For decades, the two countries would rarely talk to each other. And as an American, it was very hard to get approval to visit Cuba. Obama lifted many of these barriers.    

Obama faced more challenges, though. In 2011 the Republican Party took over the House of Representatives in Congress. And then their party won the U.S. Senate in 2015. There was little agreement between the White House and Congress during those years. Obama was a Democrat, and the majority in both Houses of Congress were Republicans.   

One big setback occurred because of this. After the death of Supreme Court Justice Scalia, Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Scalia. But this expired, because the Senate refused to hold a vote for him. They delayed the choice until the next U.S. President would be in office.   

Since Congress was now opposed to many of Obama’s plans, he had to use new tactics to get things done. U.S. Presidents have certain powers they can use that do not require Congress to approve them. Obama used those powers many times during those years 

Every president, has to deal with crises that are largely out of their control. For example, there was an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It was one of the worst environmental disasters ever.   

And in Libya, though a dictator was overthrown, there was an attack on the U.S. Embassy there. Many lives were lost. Further, there were many Middle East groups who hate the U.S., who formed a group called ISIS.   

One of the most tragic events during these years was in Connecticut. There was a shooting at the Sandy Hook school. The White House had a moment of silence to honor the many lives that were lost.   

One of Obama’s passions as president was “climate control.” He respected the need to care for our planet. He strongly supported global efforts to reduce pollution.   

On the lighter side, here are some less-known facts about Obama. As a child, his friends called him “Barry.” He loves sports like golf, basketball, football, and baseball. He has read all of the Harry Potter books. He worked at an ice cream shop for so long, as a youth, that he no longer likes ice cream. He has even won a Grammy Award. The Obama family had a dog named Bo, while in the White House


Finally, he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. He stood for reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world. And he was viewed as working very hard for more cooperation between countries.   

Like other Presidents, many people liked him, but many other people didn’t agree with him. It will take many years for history to look at what President Obama achieved. If you look at approval ratings since Eisenhower, each president has a very wide range of “grades,” depending on the month and year of their times in office.   

In those 64 years, the lowest grade is 22%, and the highest is 89%. In Obama’s two terms, his ratings ranged from 41% to 64%. When he left office, his rating was at 60%.   

1. Many people think Obama was a great president because: 
   a) he helped a lot of people get healthcare
   b) he helped end the war in Iraq
   c) protected immigrant children from being deported
   d) A, B, and C
   e) none of the above

2. Barack Obama was born in:  
   a) California
   b) the Middle East
   c) Hawaii

3. Barack Obama:  
   a) attended Harvard Law School
   b) never went to college
   c) never graduated from high school

4. His first job in politics was being a:  
   a) member of the House of Representatives
   b) member of the Senate
   c) Vice-President

5. When Obama took office as president, the two most urgent issues were:  
   a) taxes and manufacturing
   b) banks and housing
   c) the U.S. economy and war in the Middle East

6. What was ‘Obamacare”? 
   a) an education program for preschoolers
   b) a program to increase automobile manufacturing
   c) a program to provide healthcare insurance for all Americans.

7. During Obama’s time in office, he lifted many barriers between the United States and:      
   a) Russia
   b) Cuba
   c) China

8. Congress did not agree with many of Obama’s plans because:  
   a) they were mostly Republicans and he was a Democrat
   b) they were smarter than he was
   c) they did not understand what he wanted to do.

9. During Obama’s presidency, an oil spill that was one of the worst environmental disasters took place in:  
   a) Libya
   b) the U.S. Embassy
   c) The Gulf of Mexico

10. In the Middle East, a group of people who hated the U.S. formed a group called:  
   a) ISIS
   b) Freedom Fighters
   c) the Nazis

11. Because Obama strongly supported ‘climate control’ he supported global efforts to: 
   a) manufacture fewer automobiles
   b) make everyone into vegetarians
   c) reduce pollution

12. For reducing the number of nuclear weapons in the world, Obama received: 
   a) the blue ribbon
   b) the Nobel Peace Prize
   c) a medal