Key events in Barack Obama's life and career

Published: Friday, Oct. 9 2009 7:52 a.m. MDT

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.

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