Barack Obama: Life & Lessons

Note: This post is one of a series, covering some of the most successful and influential people of our world. The ‘Inspirational People’ series of posts (others of which can be found here) aims to give you an insight in to the lives of these people and lessons from which we can learn and implement in our own lives.

Barack Obama: His Life

Barack Hussein Obama II, the 44th President of the United States of America, and the first African President to hold office.

Barack Obama was born August 4th 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii to parents Ann Durham (a white American) and Barack Obama Sr. (a Kenyan) who’d met while both studying at the University of Hawaii.

Barack’s Mother, Ann Durham grew up in Wichita, Kansas, but moved to Hawaii through her parents work during the great depression and the Second World War (following the attack on Hawaii’s Pearl Harbour).

Barack Obama Sr., Obama’s father, was born of Luo Ethnicity in Nyanza Province, Kenya and grew up herding goats. He eventually earned a scholarship to purse his dreams of college in the states, where he met his wife-to-be Ann Durham. They married on the 2nd February 1961, following the pregnancy of Barack Obama Jr. who arrived 6 months later.

Obama had a limited relationship with his father as a child. After relocating to Massachusetts to pursue a PH.D in economics at Harvard University, he moved back to Nairobi, Kenya with the hope of helping to revitalise Kenya’s poor economy. He later died in a fatal car accident here in Nairobi on the 24th November 1982, at which point Barack Obama Jr. was around age 21.

Regardless of the lack of his father, as well as the bullying he injured at school as a Black-American, Obama Jr. excelled in school. Exceling in basketball and graduating with academic honours in 1979, he went on to study at Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years, after which he transferred to Columbia University in New York. He graduated in 1983 with a degree in Political Science.

After graduation, Obama visited his family in Kenya. He returned with a fresh sense of renewal and entered the Harvard Law School in 1988. From here he met Michelle Robinson; an Associate of a Chicago Law Firm, while on an internship with the company. In February 1990, Obama was elected the first African-American editor of the Harvard Law Review. He graduated from Harvard in 1991.

Following law school, he returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer and joined the firm Miner, Barnhill and Galland, while also teaching part-time at the University of Chicago Law School.

On October 3rd 1992, Barack and Michelle married and would go on to welcome two daughters into their lives several years later. Malia (Born 1998) and Sasha (Born 2001).

Following the publication of his first book Dreams from my Father (a book I’m currently reading and recommend!) in 1995, Obama ran for a seat in the Illinois State Senate. He ran as a Democrat and won election in 1996… this was the beginning of his to become great political career.

In 2007, Obama made headlines by announcing his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic Presidential election. On November 4th 2008, Barack defeated republican John McCain winning the election as the 44th president of the United States of America and as the first African-American to hold office.

Obama went on to inherit a global economic recession, two global foreign wars and several other issues including an energy crisis and healthcare issues. Obama summarized these in his inauguration speech saying, “Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many.”

He since went on to accomplish and pass many achievements in his first presidency; including the extraction of troops from Iraq, the beginning of the extraction of troops from Afghanistan, and the stabilisation and small turn around of the US economy, not to mention the discovery, defeat and killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

Barack Obama is still currently president at the time of writing this, in his 2nd and final term. He continues to direct the US economy forwards, extract troops from Afghanistan and introduce an act of reform in the healthcare sector.

With 3 more years left in this last and final term, I am sure we are yet to see more progress and achievement by the president. Some of his previous most historical achievements and speech’s are summarized in the video below:

Life Lesson: What Can We Learn

On reflection of the extraordinary life story of Obama and reading though the large number quotes he has famously said over years, I feel there are two key lessons that stand out from the rest to be learnt from him and his life.

1) Don’t Loose Faith in Your Path & Aim for Excellence in Everything You Do On It

The first relates to his life story in general. Specifically the way he worked on and on throughout his life, down the path for excellence.

He once said, “If your walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.” And for me, this quote sums up his life and his quite distinct political actions well. He said, “We need to internalize this idea of excellence, not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.”

The idea of working for progress and excellence is easily notable in the life of Obama and the way he’s progressed and achieved. But I also believe it’s an idea that should not be lost apart for the ‘special few’ and is something that we should all implemented in our own lives. It’s proven by the story of Obama; anyone can achieve and succeed in life through a conscious effort to keep walking down the path they are on, making a conscious effort as they go to excel and be great in everything that they do.

And with this, I feel and so would Barack, that anyone can eventually reach that position of achievement and success.

2) Appreciate and Recognise All – Don’t Write Anybody Off

The second lesson in his life is one not necessarily relatable for everybody in the way it was to Obama, but it is one that I feel we should all recognise and understand. It’s about race, or it was for Obama, but it could be on anything for us.

Obama famously once said in his pre-election speech, “This is not 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 United States of America.” And this, although oomph’ed up for the speech, reflects well to me the views of Obama and is in fact the view I feel we should all take on our world and the results of globalisation on it.

Our communities, our work places, our countries and our world are not and should no longer be, segregated groups of people. Whether based on race, or age, gender or profession, the worlds groups of different people really should work together for the future, to produce the best world we can.

And it is proved, by bringing different people together, we humans produce great things… and perhaps, that’s not just proven in the story of Obama, but proven in the story of America. Just think of New York.


And in conclusion… Obama’s life is certainly one of interest to study and read about. But more importantly than this, are the lessons that we can learn from the challenges and experiences he has faced. He has accomplished a lot in his life and yet his presidency has still not to finish yet.

Through the lessons I talked about above, he has achieved all that he has. And by relating to the people regardless of politics, race or gender and by progressing to a level of greatness and excellence by relentlessly working and moving along the path he and we can all do things great… Yes We Can!

Further Reading from Barack Obama:

(1995) Dreams from my FatherA Story of Race and Inheritance
(2006) The Audacity of HopeThoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (A Book I’ve Currently Got On Order!)
(2008) Change We Can Believe InBarack Obama’s Plan to Renew America’s Promise

Wrote by Joe Brown