Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States, was born in Hawaii on 4 August 1961. With a Kenyan father and mother from Kansas, he was raised with help from his grandfather, who served in Patton's army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank. He had a middle- class upbringing in a strong family, where hard work and education are the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.
After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants. He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.
President Obama's years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world's most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online.
Barack Obama stepped into history and grasped the reins of power when he was sworn in as the first African-American President of the United States on 20 January 2009—a racial barrier-breaking achievement believed impossible by generation of minorities. Two years after beginning his improbable quest as a little-known, first-term Illinois Senator with a foreign-sounding name, Obama moved into the Oval Office as the fourth youngest President of the United States at 47.
In his first speech as President, Obama declared, "If there is anyone out there who doubts that America is a place where anything is possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer".
Obama's election electrified millions around the world with the hope that the US will be more embracing and more open to change. His slogan 'Yes, we can' inspired everyone from a commoner to boardrooms of several companies. His election represents the hopes and aspirations of all minorities and dispossessed everywhere people and nations who together constitute a majority of the world. With his oath-taking, the dream of the great black American, Martin Luther King Jr. 45 years ago had come true.
Obama is wise for his youthful age. He ran the most efficient and indefatigable election campaign in the US history. He campaigned consistently as the candidate for change. Obama's victory reflects America's diversity as much as it acknowledges his ability to appeal to voters across race, class and age. In electing Obama, the US demonstrated why it is a land of greater equality, opportunity, tolerance and democracy than any other nation of the world.
Barack Obama took over as the President when the US economy was in shackles and the world was witnessing a financial meltdown. The US soldiers in Iraq were preparing to return home and there was a need to boost energy efficiency as US dependence on foreign oil was seen both as a security and economic threat. Equally tough were the assortment of challenges on foreign policy front. In fact, there were soaring expectations that cannot be fulfilled.
However, within a short period, Obama proved that he is a man of 'action'. In his very first address to the nation, he said, "...the
challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America—they will be met". Within 48 hours of his oath-taking, Obama signed executive orders effectively ending the Central Intelligence Agency's secret interrogation programme, directing the closing of the Guantanamo Bay detention camp within a year and setting up sweeping, high-level review of the best way to hold and question terrorist suspects in the future.
Within days of becoming President, Barack Obama signed an equal pay bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, into law. He also signed a series of executive orders, and announced a new White House Task Force on the problems of middle-class Americans. Further, the President made his intentions clear by appointing a special envoy for West Asia and a special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the two hot points of the world. Since then, the President has consistently focused on these two geographical areas and has made visits to both the areas.
For his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 to President Barack Obama. The Committee attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons. The Committee said that Obama, as President, has created a new climate in international politics.
Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee endorsed Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges". It is due to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. In fact, the President was instrumental in getting the Copenhagen Accord finalized that was acceptable to India, China and the US.
Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.