On November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois was elected President of the United States. The first African American to be elected to the nation's highest office, his victory is a milestone in American history. The son of a ...
By Academy of Achievement
On November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois was elected President of the United States. The first African American to be elected to the nation's highest office, his victory is a milestone in American history. The son of a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya, Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia. After graduating from Columbia University, he moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he served as President of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. In 1995 he published a moving account of his family and his youth, Dreams From My Father. Little noticed at the time, it later became an international bestseller. When Obama taught Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago, overflow crowds gathered in the halls outside his classroom to listen to his lectures through the open door. In addition to teaching and practicing law in Chicago, he served for eight years in the Illinois State Senate. Barack Obama became a national figure overnight with his electrifying keynote speech at the 2004 National Democratic Convention. At the time, Obama had just won an upset victory in a primary election to become the Democratic nominee for a U.S. Senate seat. With one speech, a virtual unknown had become the most inspiring personality in American politics. That fall, he won his Senate race in an overwhelming landslide. From the day he arrived in Washington, the news media debated the question: could this freshman Senator make a serious run for the White House? Soon he was breaking fundraising records and drawing passionately enthusiastic crowds around the country. Running against an array of the most seasoned leaders in American politics, Senator Obama ran an intensely disciplined campaign, deploying the resources of the Internet to build an unprecedented national network of donors and volunteers. After winning the nomination of the Democratic Party, he triumphed in states where Democratic candidates had not competed in decades. His inauguration on January 20, 2009 was celebrated around the world as the beginning of a new era, and a vindication of the American Dream. After only eight months in office, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his "efforts to strengthen international diplomacy," his "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons" and for inspiring hope and creating "a new climate in international politics." He had just begun his presidential campaign when he addressed the Academy of Achievement in Washington in 2007. In his remarks, he pays tribute to a leader who inspired him, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.