Guest Essayist: Juliette Turner


Barack Obama: Forty-Fourth President of the United States

Nickname: The First African-American President

Terms in Office: 2009-2013; 2013-present

Fast Stats

  • Born August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii
  • Parents: Barack Obama Sr. and Stanley Ann Dunham Obama Soetoro
  • Barack Obama is still living and in office
  • Age upon Start of First Term: 47; Age upon Conclusion of First Term: 51
  • Age upon Start of Second Term: 51
  • Religious Affiliation: Congregationalist (Protestant)
  • Political Party: Democrat
  • Height: 6 feet 1 inch
  • Vice President: Joseph Biden

Bottom Line

President Obama is the current president of the United States and is serving his second term in office. Obama passed his landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act; oversaw the capture and death of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden; and enforced a multibillion dollar stimulus in an attempt to help the economy. He has struggled with a scandal regarding the surveillance of the American people by the federal government and an ever-growing debt and deficit.

What Was He Thinking?

Barack Obama champions a large government that can care equally for all Americans. Not afraid to raise taxes for the wealthiest citizens or spend federal dollars, Obama has worked to increase various welfare and health care benefits, and he has successfully passed the first legislation that mandates nationalized health care for all Americans.

Why Should I Care?

Barack Obama is the first African-American to become president of the United States. He is also the first president who was raised by a single mother and his grandparents. During his presidency, Obama has worked to promote equality in America, most notably between genders, by passing legislation to promote women’s equality in the workplace and appointing two women to the Supreme Court, more than any other president.

Breakin’ It Down

Early Life

Barack Hussein Obama II is the only child of Barack, an African man from Kenya, and Stanley Ann, a white woman from Kansas. Barack and Stanley Ann’s marriage in 1960 was extremely controversial; interracial marriage was still illegal in half of the U.S. at the time. The marriage, however, was short-lived: the couple divorced after just three years of marriage. It was revealed that Barack Sr. had another wife in Kenya to whom he returned after divorcing Stanley Ann. The following year, Barack’s mother remarried, this time to Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian native. Young Barack then moved with his mother to Jakarta, Indonesia. Within a few years, Stanley Ann sent Barack back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents and to grow up in what she considered a safer environment. In Hawaii, Barack attended high school at the Punahou Academy, graduating in 1979 with academic honors.

After high school, Obama first enrolled at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, but he transferred to New York’s Columbia College in 1981, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. Obama then took a job at the Business International Corporation as a financial service officer. Within a year, he transferred to New York’s Public Research Group and traveled to college campuses to encourage students to become active in politics and social justice. In 1984, Obama worked as a community organizer for the City University of New York at their Harlem campus. In 1988, he decided to return to school, and three years later he received his JD from Harvard Law School. During his time at Harvard Law School, Obama was involved in various student protests, often leading the protests and speaking to his fellow students. Obama also became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. In 1992, after graduating, he returned to Chicago to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago. He continued teaching seminars at the college until 2004.



In 1995, Obama published his first book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.

Although Obama has no biological siblings, he has nine stepsiblings.

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama


First Couple

Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson first met in 1989 at the Sidley & Austin law firm, where Michelle worked as an attorney. They married in 1992 and have two daughters, Malia and Sasha. During her husband’s political campaigns, Michelle remained very active, traveling across the country on his behalf to gather support for his presidential campaigns. As first lady, Michelle is a strong advocate for health and dietary concerns.



Michelle Obama is 5 feet 11 inches tall – the same height as previous first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, making them the tallest first ladies in U.S. history.


Previous Political Career

1996: Elected state senator in Illinois. He served on the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and as the head of the Health and Human Services Committee.

1998: Reelected to Illinois state senate.

2000: Ran for a position in U.S. House of Representatives but lost.

2002: Elected again to the Illinois state senate.

2004: Elected to the U.S. Senate, becoming only the third African-American U.S. Senator since the Reconstruction Era.


Shortly before Obama entered the office of the president, the U.S. suffered its worst economic collapse since the Great Depression. To counter the severe recession and prevent the economy from further decline, Obama and the U.S. Congress implemented a $787 billion stimulus package that pumped federal funds into private businesses and the economic market in an attempt to help restart failing banks and businesses.

International Policy

Within his first one hundred days, Obama concentrated on international policy, improving relations with China and Russia and opening diplomatic dialogue with Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba. Although Obama had said as he campaigned that he would end the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, he sent 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan. He vowed to withdraw troops in Iraq by 2010, although it was not completed until the end of 2011, Obama also used military force to confront the Somalian pirates who had been terrorizing tourists and U.S. ships for years in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea. In 2009, America suffered from her first successful terrorist attack since the 9/11 terrorist attack with the Fort Hood Massacre on the Fort Hood military base in Texas. America then suffered a similar attack in 2012 but on foreign land – at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya – where terrorists killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.


In 2010, Obama achieved one of his greatest successes, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, helping to make health insurance coverage more accessible to every American. Although the U.S. economy still struggled to regain ground after the 2008 collapse, the Obama administration gained fresh momentum with the killing of Al-Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden.


In 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, a major win for Obama’s landmark achievement in the election year. After a record setting amount of money was spent in the campaign by both candidates, Obama won a second term in office. However, his victory celebration was short-lived; in April 2013, less than four months after his second inauguration, two terrorists bombed the annual marathon in Boston, Massachusetts, killing three civilians and injuring many more.

NSA Scandal!

In 2013, former government employee Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency had been monitoring American citizens through their web, cell phone, computer, and email communications. The Obama administration claimed that the security agency was doing this legally and that it was in the interest of national security. Soon it was also revealed that the surveillance extended outside American borders and affected other countries worldwide.

Problems in Syria

In late 2013, the international field erupted in debate over the Syrian civil war and Syria’s possible use of chemical weapons. President Obama previously claimed that the use of chemical weapons would cross a “red line,” which would require U.S. intervention. Although U.S. involvement seemed inevitable and the danger of chemical weapons being spread to terrorist organizations sparked a high security alert in the Middle East, the U.S. decided not to invade Syria, and a war was averted.

Another Government Shutdown

October 2013 brought the third government shutdown in two decades. After over two weeks of inaction, Congress and the president finally negotiated legislation to reopen the government and prevent the U.S. from defaulting on her loan payments. The close of 2013 saw Obama’s approval ratings plummet as a result of the NSA scandals, problems with enrollment for the Affordable Care Act, and gridlock in Washington, D.C., over America’s economy.

Election Results

Obama not only made history as the first African-American Democratic presidential candidate, but he was also the first first-term U.S. Senator to go so far in a presidential election. On November 4, voter turnout was at its highest in four decades. The election was also historic because Obama’s Republican presidential candidate to choose a female running mate, Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska.

Barack Obama’s opponent in the 2012 election was former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, whose vice presidential candidate was Paul Ryan, a congressman from Wisconsin. Campaign issues spanned from Obama’s Affordable Care Act to the growing debt and federal deficit. The recent scandals, including the suspected government cover-up regarding the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, also made headlines during the election. It appeared Mitt Romney held the lead after the first televised presidential debate, but after the next two debates, Obama gained the lead and won the election.

Election of 2008

  1. Barack Obama: 365 Electoral Votes
  2. John McCain: 173 Electoral Votes

Election of 2012

  1. Barack Obama: 332 Electoral Votes
  2. Mitt Romney: 206 Electoral Votes


Presidential Personality

Barack Obama’s charisma and appeal has drawn millions of voters to him during his political career. Often categorized as a family man, the current president of the United States is a leader with a strong personality but a soft and respectful nature. He is known for his ability to deliver rousing speeches, a skill that has greatly helped him in the political arena.

There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the Unites States of America. – Barack Obama


Fun Fact!

The name Barack means “one who is blessed” in Swahili.


Obama was the fourth president to win the Nobel Peace Prize. He was awarded the medal for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.


Congressional Corner

Lily Ledbetter Act: This act, passed in 2009, helped establish equal pay for women in the workplace.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Passed in 2009, this act approved $787 billion to be sent to various U.S. businesses and banks to help restart the economy. The bill also enforced a $288 billion tax cut for the middle class, and allotted money to improve education and health care, extend unemployment benefits, and create jobs.

Patient Protection Affordable Care Act: In March 2010, this act nationalized U.S. health care to help make health care more affordable and accessible. It also made it mandatory for every American to own health insurance and demanded that businesses provide health insurance for their employees. Enrollment for the Affordable Care Act began in October 2013. No Republicans voted for the bill.

Budget Control Act: This act, passed in 2011, helped to avoid a second economic collapse by preventing America from defaulting on her financial obligations.

Hate Crimes Prevention Act: This act, passed in 2009, expanded existing federal laws against hate crime.

American Taxpayer Relief Act: This act was passed in 2012 and extended many of the so-called Bush Tax Cuts.

Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act: This act, passed in 2013, extended the act passed under Bill Clinton that set aside $1.6 billion for investigations of violent crimes against women.

Thoughts on the Constitution

I have studied the Constitution as a student; I have taught it as a teacher; I have been bound by it as a lawyer and legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief, and as a citizen. I know that we must never- ever- turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake…. We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and keeps us safe.


Presidential Times

Osama Bin Laden Dead!

May 2, 2011 – Terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden has been killed in Pakistan in his secret compound. Obama gave the green light yesterday for U.S. Navy SEALs to invade the compound, where CIA and FBI operatives claimed bin Laden was living. The leads proved to be correct, and the Navy SEALs found and killed bin Laden.

Attacks On The Benghazi Consulate

September 12, 2012 – On the eleventh anniversary of 9/11, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by a group of terrorists, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens; Foreign Service Information officer Sean Smith; and two Navy SEALs, Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty. The Obama administration originally claimed the attack occurred after the release of an anti-Muslim YouTube video created by an American. However, it was later revealed that the attack was orchestrated by terrorists in the region over an unrevealed cause.

Questions continue as to why no aid was sent to the consulate at the time of the attack. Though several military bases within a 60-mile radius were on alert, no aid was delivered, and four Americans died.

White House…Closed?

March 9, 2013 – If you are trying to book a White House tour, you may be running into some difficulties. Today, the Obama administration has decided to close the White House in attempt to cut costs in light of the recent budget cuts passed by Congress – although the cost of White House tours is almost negligible. The White House is predicted to be closed for months.

Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Killed

April 19, 2013 – One of the Boston Marathon bomb suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnev, was killed in a police shootout yesterday. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnev, is still at large. Earlier this week, at 2:49 EST on April 15, two amateur bombs exploded during the annual Boston Marathon, killing three people and insuring more than 260 runners and bystanders. The Tsarnev brothers, from Chechnya, have been living in a Boson suburb.

Government Shutdown Of 2013 To End

October 16, 2013 – The president and Congress have agreed on a plan to reopen the government after a sixteen-day shutdown, which began October 1. The shutdown resulted in 800,000 federal workers being laid off. Similar to the government shutdowns during President Clinton’s administration, it resulted from a lack of negotiation for addressing America’s growing debt. During the Shutdown, Republicans and Democrats in Congress composed and disregarded several bills proposing economic plans, but it was not until tonight that atplan was agreed upon.

IRS Scandal

May 20, 2013 – Earlier this month, the American public became aware of a scandal involving the country’s Internal Revenue Service and its interference in political parties. It was released that several IRS officials had unjustly targeted Tea Party Activist groups, sparking concern of the partisan nature of the nation’s economic bureau. This comes shortly after the release of the NSA scandal, causing many to fear the rapid overexpansion of the government.

State of the Union

(1) States: 50

(2) U.S. Population: (2009) 308,633, 000

(3) U.S. Debt (2009) $12,311,349,677,512

(2012) $16,332, 597, 222, 179

(4) Value of the Dollar: $1 in 2009 would be worth $1.09 today. $1 in 2012 would be worth $1.00.


  • 2009 – Bombings in Baghdad, Iraq, kill 155 people
  • 2009 – Sonya Sotomayor is the first Latino to be appointed to the Supreme Court
  • 2010 – The BP oil spill occurs in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana
  • 2010 – A catastrophic earthquake hits Haiti
  • 2011 – Osama bin Laden is killed
  • 2011 – Prince William marries Catherine Middleton
  • 2012 – Twenty-six lose their lives at the hand of a gunman inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut
  • 2012 – The Summer Olympics begin in London, England
  • 2012 – The Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate
  • 2013 – The Boston Marathon bombings take place
  • 2013 – Edward Snowden begins leaking NSA secrets
  • 2013 – Prince William and Kate’s first child, George, is born
  • 2013 – The government shuts down, between October 1 and October 16
  • 2013 – Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, dies


What Has He Done for Me Lately?

Though the Affordable Care Act has yet to be fully funded, and is still in its trial stage, it was passed to ensure that every American possesses some form of health insurance. To comply with the new laws and regulations, insurance companies were required to alter their existing policies and amend what kind of patients they covered. Because of this, regardless of what insurance company your parents have, you are allowed to stay on their health plan until you are twenty-six. Also, all individuals must be covered by insurance, regardless of preexisting medical conditions that previously prevented some individuals from finding medical coverage.


Fun Fact!

In 2006, Obama was honored with a Grammy award for the Best Spoken Word Recording of his audio book of Dreams from my Father.


Obama is left-handed.


Platform Speech

What the American people hope – what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics. For while the people who sent us here have different backgrounds, different stories, different beliefs, the anxieties they face are the same. The aspirations they hold are shared: a job that pays the bills; a chance to get ahead; most of all, the ability to give their children a better life. – Barack Obama

In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama attempted to bring Washington, D.C., together despite their political differences to provide Americans and their children a better life.

Juliette Turner is the National Youth Director of Constituting America, and the author of three books: Our Constitution Rocks, Our Presidents Rock and the novel, based on life at her ranch with her mom, actress Janine Turner, That’s Not Hay In My Hair (all published by HarpersCollins/Zondervan).

Our Presidents Rock, HarpersCollins/Zondervan, 2014. Reprinted with permission.

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