Today's #HistoryHero has a birthday coming up. He was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, despite attempts by some to make us believe otherwise. He's already made much history and at only 56 years of age, he still has more history to make. He is, to date, the most frequently nominated figure in Time Traveler Tours' #HistoryHero campaign. We are honored to include him in these pages and wish him an early Happy Birthday.
Barack Obama believes you should begin with hope.
Barack Hussein Obama will probably always be the second-most famous U.S. president from the state of Illinois, but considering that puts him behind the likes of Abraham Lincoln, we believe it's an accolade he really wouldn't mind. And like Lincoln, Obama didn't win every election he ever contested -- only the most important one, in 2008, when he became the first African-American President of the United States.
Barry was raised by his single-mother, who hailed from Kansas, and her grandparents, also from the Midwest -- his father was from Kenya. They moved around quite a bit, living for four years as far away as Indonesia. He grew up with a unique, global outlook, then attended college in the U.S., starting at Occidental College in Los Angeles and graduating in 1983 from New York's Columbia University with a B.A. in political science.
Just out of college, Obama worked as a community organizer in Chicago. In 1988, he returned to school to complete a law degree at Harvard. There he made history a first time, becoming the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.
At Harvard, Obama specialized as a civil rights attorney. After graduating magna cum laude in 1991, he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years, from 1992 to 2004. All the while he remained active in local politics, contributing to grassroots organizations and civil rights groups such as Project Vote, the Woods Fund of Chicago, and the Joyce Foundation. Then politics took over, becoming a full-time job.
It all started with his three terms in the Illinois Senate, from 1997 to 2004. He lost a bid for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000, but he did not let that stop him -- after all, Lincoln lost two Senate races before winning the presidency in 1860. Sure enough, what followed was his landslide election to the US in 2004 -- he won with an overwhelming 70% of the vote -- then his historic presidential win just four years later. He made his own story -- that it could only happen in America -- the foundation of his appeal. He was inaugurated the 44th President of the United States -- for the first time -- on January 20, 2009, before record numbers of people, both present on the Washington Mall as well as on TV worldwide, again despite some individuals' insistence to the contrary.
The world was full of hope. Change was in the air. Nine months later, Barack Obama made history again, this time as the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize laureate.
Obama's eight years in office were replete with historic accomplishments: legalizing gay marriage, establishing an affordable healthcare system, and creating programs to fight climate change, to name a few. But his greatest and perhaps most easily forgotten accomplishment was preventing a second Great Depression. He entered the Oval Office just as the US economy was set to be taken down by the collapse of a number of big banks. Obama took swift action and lead his country through the ensuing crisis. That sort of thing doesn't get you into the history books right away. But he came into office during one of the most economically and socially unstable moments in American history, and he managed to stave off the worst of it while spreading the message of hope and change to millions of American people.
Obama left the presidency at noon on January 20, 2017, handing over the reins to a man who is his opposite in every conceivable way. President Obama and the former First Lady Michelle Obama continue their humanitarian efforts beyond the White House, however, inspiring billions of people worldwide who admire their ethical leadership. The former US President still is a symbol of hope for people everywhere. History will remember him kindly.
Obama gave Americans a future to believe in at a time of crisis. That's why he's a Time Traveler Tours #HistoryHero. Many thanks to Harper Lower and all the other individuals who nominated him.
Happy Birthday Mr. President!