Success Stories: Barack Obama and His Road to Success

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posted on Jul. 22, 2016

As Obama prepares to leave the White House, we take a look at one of the most inspiring success stories in history. That of the first black US president.

January 20, 2009 was a momentous day in American history: it was the day Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, effectively becoming the first African American to hold the office. Four years later, he was re-elected in the top seat in the land, and has since become one of the most influential people in the world and is often regarded as one of the best presidents the country – and the world – has ever seen.

As presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (and the lesser acknowledged Gary Johnson and Jill Stein) wage an all-out war against each other over who gets to set up home in the most famous house in America, a grayer and thinner-looking Obama is preparing to conclude his second term as the POTUS and will move out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue eight years to the day he and his family moved in. To celebrate Obama’s successful political career and his time in the White House (during which he introduced Obamacare, ended US military involvement in Iraq, brokered a nuclear deal with Iran, and normalized US relations with Cuba), we take a look at one of the most remarkable success stories in history and examine his bumpy road to success.

A President in the Making

Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii (making him the first and only president to have been born in the state of Hawaii) to Barack Obama Sr., a Kenyan senior governmental economist, and Ann Dunham, an anthropologist.

His parents met in 1960 in a Russian language class at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where Obama Sr. was a foreign student on scholarship. They married a year later on February 2 but then separated in August when Dunham moved with their newborn son to attend the University of Washington in Seattle for a year. They divorced in 1964.

During this time, Dunham met Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian geography graduate student at the University of Hawaii, and were married in 1965. Lolo then returned to Indonesia in 1966, after two one-year extensions of J-1 visa, followed by his wife and stepson 16 months later. There, Obama attended Indonesian-language schools, supplemented by English-language homeschooling by his mother.

At the age of 10, Obama returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents where he attended Punahou School, a private college preparatory school, from fifth grade until his graduation from high school in 1979. In 1983, he graduated with a BA degree in political science from Columbia College in New York City, where he transferred to in 1981 from Occidental College in Los Angeles.


In the fall of 1988, Obama entered the Harvard Law School where he graduated with a JD degree magna cum laude in 1991. During his second year at Harvard, he became the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, a feat that garnered national media attention. Obama then accepted a two-year position at the University of Chicago Law School as Visiting Law and Government Fellow, and then went on to teach constitutional law there for 12 years, first as a Lecturer between 1992 and 1996 and then as a Senior Lecturer until 2004.

During this time, he began pursuing his political career and becoming the Illinois State Senator in 1996; he was subsequently reelected to the Illinois State in 1998 and again in 2000. In 2004, he successfully ran against Alan Keyes to represent the state of Illinois in the US Senate, having won with 70% of the vote – his 43% margin of victory, meanwhile, was the largest in the state history of US Senate elections.

And that’s just the beginning.

The First Black President in US History

On June 16, 1858, Abraham Lincoln, who would later go on to become the 16th President of the United States, gave his now-famous House Divided Speech, in which he addressed the issue of slavery, at what was then the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. One hundred and forty nine years later, on February 10, 2007, Barack Obama stood on the exact same spot and announced his candidacy for POTUS.

He ran against John McCain and won with a total of 69.5 million votes, the highest amount ever won by a presidential candidate. On January 20, 2009, he took the oath of office administered by Chief Justice John G. Roberts (which they famously messed up – Obama jumped in before the “do solemnly swear” phrase which threw Roberts of his stride and who then incorrectly rendered the next phrase of the oath – necessitating the oath’s re-administration the next day), effectively becoming the first African-American president in US history.

That same year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and by 2012 had ended US military involvement in the Iraq War; signed the New START arms control treaty with Russia (which called for the reduction of strategic nuclear missile launches); introduced Obamacare; repealed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy; and ordered the military mission that resulted in the death of Al-Qaeda head Osama bin Laden – all in his first term as president.

In November 2012, he was reelected president and went on to promote discussions on global climate change which resulted in the 2015 Paris Agreement; brokered a nuclear deal with Iran; and normalized US relations with Cuba which had been severed in 1961 during the Cold War.

Obama’s 5 Secrets to Success

Obama is now preparing to conclude his eight years in the White House and in that time has become one of the most influential people in history and is often regarded as one of the best presidents the country has ever seen. But what can we learn from him and his road to success?

Well, Obama has five secrets to success which he revealed in a speech in 2014 while promoting My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative which aims to “[help] more of our young people to stay on track” and “[provide] the support they need to think more broadly about their future.”

#1 Find Out What Makes You Tick: “Figure out what it is that you care about passionately, something that you think is important to you, because if nothing's important to you, you're not going to put in the work.”

#2 There’s No ‘I’ in ‘Team’: “Understand that you will not achieve by yourself, which means that you've got to be able to invest in relationships with other people who you can learn from, who will support you, who you will support in turn.”

#3 Don’t Listen to Haters: “When you're young, it is natural to care a lot about what your peers think of you. That's, that's just human. And there's nothing wrong with that… At some point…, you have to move beyond just what other people think and you have to make a determination about what do you believe in.”

#4 There’s No Room for Slacking: “"I don't care how bad your school is. There's a teacher in there somewhere who, if you went up to her or him and said, 'I really want to learn. Can you help me?' that teacher would snatch you up in a second, because they want to feel like they're doing a good job. But if you're just sitting in the back of the class slouching and complaining about how bad the school is, well, […] it's not going to help you.”

#5 Practice Makes Perfect: “There is no reason why you should think that you will be a good reader if you don't read a lot, and read books that are hard, as opposed to just books that are easy. There's no reason to think that you will be good at mathematics if you are not doing math problems and pushing yourself and trying math problems that are hard, not just ones that are easy.”

Do you agree that Obama is one of the best presidents the US has ever seen? Or will you be happy to see him go? Join the conversation below, and tell us what you think!

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