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Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. was elected President of the United States on November 4, 2008. Prior to that, he had served four years as a U.S. senator from Illinois (2005-2008) and eight years as an Illinois state senator (1996-2004).
Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961, to a white mother from Kansas (Anna Dunham) and a black Muslim father from Kenya (Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.). The couple had met when they were students at the University of Hawaii. When they married, Anna was unaware that her new husband was still legally married to a woman in Kenya, whom he had wed in 1954, and with whom he had fathered four children.
In his 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama, Jr. describes his mother as “a lonely witness for secular humanism, a soldier for New Deal, Peace Corps, position-paper liberalism.” His father was a communist who had left his rural Luo-speaking village and his own Muslim father to become an “agnostic” and study economics abroad.
In his book Barack Obama: The Story, Washington Post reporter-editor David Maraniss explains that Obama’s parents were “married in name only.” Within a mere month after Obama’s birth, the baby and his mother had moved to Washington state, apart from the father. The father, for his part, left Hawaii in June 1962 and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he pursued graduate studies at Harvard University. Not long thereafter, he returned to Kenya with another white American woman, whom he married there in 1964. In January 1964 Anna Dunham filed for divorce.
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