44th President

Terms: 2009-2017
Political Party: Democrat
First Lady: Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama
Vice President: Joseph "Joe" Biden, Jr.

Overview

Born August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii… Barack Obama was the first African-American to serve as President of the United States. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Obama served as an Illinois State Senator, and U.S. Senator from the same state. He announced his campaign for President of the United States after one term in Congress, competing with fellow Senator Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. In his first term in the executive office, Barack Obama faced a recession and rising federal deficit, war in the Middle East, and political division at home. He was re-elected to a second term in November 2012, winning the bid over Republican candidate Mitt Romney. President Obama's second term was marked by domestic mass shootings, the threat of terrorism, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act

Obama was the first to rely heavily on the use of social media during both of his election campaigns. In 2008, he spent $16 million on his social media campaign, and he increased that to $47 million for his 2012 re-election campaign -- 10 times as much as his republican opponent.

The Era

  • President Barack Obama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (2009)
  • The Deepwater Horizon oil platform explodes, killing 11 and creates one of the largest spills in the Gulf on record (2010)
  • Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is killed during an American military operation in Pakistan (2011)
  • 38 are killed -- including 20 children -- in mass shootings in an Aurora, CO movie theater and a Newtown, CT elementary school (2012)
  • The crisis in Syria escalates to a full-scale civil war (2012)
  • Brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev carry out the Boston Marathon bombings (2013)
  • Pope Francis becomes the 266th Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church (2013)
  • West Africa experiences the deadliest Ebola crisis in history to date (2014)
  • In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court legalizes same-sex marriage in all 50 states (2015)
  • Military combat opens to women (2015)
  • America begins to rebuild relations with Cuba (2015)

Domestic Policy

During his first term as President, Barack Obama worked to promote economic recovery by signing The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, along with other stimulus bills aimed at reducing the deficit and creating jobs. Obama also addressed national health care woes by signing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) -- a controversial bill reforming private sector companies and expanding health coverage for Americans. Just months before the November election in 2012, the Supreme Court voted in a 5-4 vote to uphold the defining aspects of the law, a major victory for democrats and Obama's capstone piece of legislation. The rollout of the healthcare marketplace and the national budget became entangled during Obama's second term as congress became locked in a stalemate over funding the ACA, causing a 16-day shutdown of the federal government. Implementation of the ACA website rolled out as planned, but faced considerable technical glitches.

Just two months after Obama's 2012 re-election, the second deadliest mass-shooting in American history occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Domestic shootings would go on to define Obama's second term in office, as he tried and failed to pass legislation expanding background checks for gun owners. In early 2016, Obama took executive action announcing a 10-step plan to clarify existing guns laws. One part of the plan included another attempt at closing the so-called gun-show loophole, which would subject people buying firearms at shows, flea markets, and online, to background checks. The order received considerable backlash from Republicans, guns rights activists, and even some Democrats who said it was Congress' job to enact gun control.

Foreign Affairs

When President Obama took office in 2009, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had been going on for nearly a decade. On May 1, 2011, President Obama approved the covert operation that targeted and ultimately killed terrorist and Al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. Obama removed all troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, but in 2015 halted the removal of troops from Afghanistan. Critics claimed he was not making good on his campaign promise to end the wars begun by his predecessor.

Major international terrorist attacks, the European refugee crisis, the continuing war in Syria, and improved relations with Cuba defined President Obama's international focus during his second term. After attacks in Paris in 2015 by people representing the terrorist group ISIS, Obama addressed the nation in a rare speech from the Oval Office, discussing national safety at home and abroad, and pledging to continue the use of air strikes against terrorist groups.

Presidential Politics

When President Obama took office in 2008, his party had gained majorities in both the House and the Senate. Legislation, such as facets of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), passed relatively smoothly. This trend changed when Republicans took control of the House in 2011, pinning Obama against House Republicans, causing major deadlocks on legislation, and eventually leading to a 16-day government shutdown. In 2014, the political climate further intensified as Republicans gained control of both the House and the Senate. Experts predicted the 113th Congress would be one of the least productive in recent history, and a 2014 Gallup poll showed disapproval ratings of a little over 80 percent from the American public.

The president struggled to maintain public approval. Obama's highest approval rating, 69%, came in 2009, just two months after being elected to his first term, and eight times during his presidency they fell as low as 38 percent. In his second term Obama's rating was higher than former President George W. Bush, lower than President Bill Clinton, and on par with President Ronald Reagan. He has been consistently criticized for over-using executive authority.

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH