WASHINGTON — President Barack Hussein Obama's long, winding path to the White House was strewn with a mix of personal and social obstacles, victories and defeats, comebacks and come-uppances. A summary of key points in his life, his quest for the presidency and key themes and goals he's articulated while in the White House:
Aug. 4, 1961: Barack Hussein Obama is born in Hawaii to a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas.
His mother is Stanley (her father wanted a boy) Ann Dunham. The Kenyan-born father is Barack Obama Sr. They met at the University of Hawaii, got married and had a son, Barack — "blessed" in Arabic. The father departs two years later to study at Harvard. He returned just once when his son was 10.
1967: Obama moves from Hawaii with his mother to Jakarta, Indonesia. He returns to the United States when he is 10, and lives with his grandparents in Hawaii. He spends much of his youth struggling with questions about his racial identity — and an African father he barely knew. He acknowledges he experimented with drugs in his teen years, a revelation made in his memoir, "Dreams From My Father." At Occidental College in Los Angeles, he started using his given name, Barack, instead of Barry — and took his first plunge into politics, speaking at an anti-apartheid rally. Obama later transfers from the small liberal arts college to Columbia University in New York. "I didn't socialize that much. I was like a monk," he would say years later in an interview with Columbia alumni magazine.
1983: Obama graduates with a political science degree and holds various jobs in New York. It was there he received a call from an aunt in Nairobi notifying him his father had been killed in an auto accident. The news eventually led Obama on a journey to Kenya and a tearful visit to his father's grave. After New York, Obama heads to Chicago, where he knew no one. He starts out there as a $12,000-a-year community organizer, walking the run-down streets of the South Side that had been decimated by the loss of steel mills and factory jobs.
1988: Obama makes giant leap from the South Side to Harvard Law School, the training ground for America's elite. He made history there, two years later, as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, perhaps the most prestigious law journal in the nation. After his first year, Obama was a summer associate at a corporate law firm in Chicago where his adviser was Michelle Robinson, another Harvard law graduate and a product of a working-class family. They subsequently marry and have two daughters, Malia, now 10, and Sasha, 8.
1993: He joins a law firm specializing in civil rights and becomes a lecturer at University of Chicago law school. Two years later, he published "Dreams From My Father," a well-reviewed memoir about growing up in America with an absent African father.
1996: Obama is elected to the Illinois state senate. But as a member of the Democratic minority, his legislative proposals are consistently thwarted by Republicans. Some dismissed him as an ivory tower liberal. However, he ultimately scores several legislative successes, pushing through measures to limit lobbyists' gifts to politicians, and expand health care to poor children. He also is instrumental in changing laws governing racial profiling, the death penalty and the interrogation of murder suspects.
Aug. 2000: Obama arrives at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, having been beaten badly by Rep. Bobby Rush a primary election, thwarting his bid for Congress. He has difficulty securing a convention floor pass and watches most of the proceedings from the sideline.
Aug. 2004: Obama attends Democratic convention — this time to deliver the keynote speak role as his party's nominee for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, which he wins. Still a relatively obscure member of the Illinois Senate, his words ignite the crowd.
Aug. 2006: Obama publishes "The Audacity of Hope," a book detailing his views on national affairs; His narration of "Dreams From My Father" wins a Grammy Award for best spoken album of 2005.
2007: Obama launches presidential campaign; raises a record $100 million in campaign contributions.
Jan. 3, 2008: Obama wins Iowa Democratic caucuses; becomes the front-runner for the presidential nomination, eclipsing Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, previously considered the premier candidate for the nomination. He locks up the nomination by June 3 and accepts it on Aug. 28 in Denver.
Nov. 4, 2008: Obama wins presidency, and delivers his acceptance speech in Chicago, his adopted hometown. "And to all of those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those — to those who would tear the world down: We will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security: We support you."
Jan. 20, 2009: Before a jubilant crowd of more than a million, Obama claims his place in history as America's first black president, summoning the nation to unite in hope against the "gathering clouds and raging storms" of war and economic woe. "We gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord," the 45th president proclaims after taking the oath of office.
Feb. 24, 2009: Obama makes his first speech to a joint session of Congress, evoking a "day of reckoning" for a nation facing a grave financial crisis, and calling for shared sacrifice and costly new endeavors to pick up the economy, overhaul health care, improve schools and clean up the environment. "The time to take charge of our future is here," he declared. "Tonight, I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before."
April 6, 2009: Obama uses a speech to the Turkish Parliament to push for renewed negotiations to bring peace to the Middle East. "We share the goal of a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors. Let me be clear: The United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. That is a goal shared by Palestinians, Israelis and people of goodwill around the world. That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. That is a goal that I will actively pursue as president of the United States."
May 26, 2009: Obama nominates the first Hispanic to the U.S. Supreme Court: "And when Sonia Sotomayor ascends those marble steps to assume her seat on the highest court of the land, America will have taken another important step toward realizing the ideal that is etched above its entrance: Equal justice under the law."
June 4, 2009: Obama extends a hand to the Islamic world in a speech in Cairo. "So long as our relationship is defined by our differences, we will empower those who sow hatred rather than peace, those who promote conflict rather than the cooperation that can help all of our people achieve justice and prosperity. And this cycle of suspicion and discord must end."
July 11, 2009: In Accra, Ghana, Obama tells Parliament: "I do not see the countries and peoples of Africa as a world apart; I see Africa as a fundamental part of our interconnected world — as partners with America on behalf of the future we want for all of our children. That partnership must be grounded in mutual responsibility and mutual respect. And that is what I want to speak with you about today. We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans."2 comments on this story
July 23, 2009: A survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center finds that Obama's popularity has boosted America's image abroad even though deep suspicions about the U.S. persist in the Muslim world. Positive opinions about the United States have returned to higher levels not seen since before President George W. Bush took office in 2001. The Bush presidency marked a steep decline in U.S. popularity overseas, notably after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, because of a perception that the post-9/11 war on terrorism was targeted at Muslims.
Sept. 22, 2009: Obama tells the U.N. Climate Change Summit: "Our generation's response to this challenge will be judged by history. If we fail to meet it -- boldly, swiftly, and together -- we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe. No nation, however large or small, wealthy or poor, can escape the impact of climate change."
Sept. 23: Obama tells U.N. General Assembly the United States cannot — and should not — pursue a go-it-alone policy in the world. He exhorts other nations to help solve global problems. "It is my deeply held belief that in the year 2009 — more than at any point in human history — the interests of nations and peoples are shared. ... We know the future will be forged by deeds and not simply by words. ... We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
Sept. 24: Obama shepherds a historic resolution through a rare U.N. Security Council summit meeting — an all-embracing document on the world's nuclear future, a statement with a clear made-by-Obama label. By an unanimous vote, the world body endorsed a sweeping strategy to halt the spread of atomic arms and ultimately to eliminate them. Obama proclaimed that he and other world leaders would leave New York "with a renewed determination to achieve this shared goal."