Barack Obama


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Barack Obama

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Born
in Honolulu, Hawaii, The United States
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November 2020


Barack Obama was the 44th president of the United States, elected in November 2008 and holding office for two terms. He is the author of two previous New York Times bestselling books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, and the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Michelle. They have two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

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Popular Answered Questions

Barack Obama It’s hard to say for sure. And a lot of that has to do with changes in how we get our information. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t deal with misinform…moreIt’s hard to say for sure. And a lot of that has to do with changes in how we get our information. I mean, it’s not like we didn’t deal with misinformation in 2008. Facebook and Twitter were around, but they were in their relative infancy. Even then, there was a good chunk of the country that came to believe I wasn’t born in America, or that I was schooled in a radical madrassa, or whatever. And some of that is as old as our country. People have been claiming all sorts of weird things about politicians for centuries. You’ve got to have a thick skin to run for office.

But there’s no doubt that the country is deeply divided right now, and when you look back even to 2008, it didn’t feel this divided. We’ve been sorted further into our own political, ideological, and cultural camps. I’ve been talking about this for a long time. I remember delivering a long commencement address about it back in 2010 at the University of Michigan. If you watch Fox News, and now some of the outlets even farther to the right, versus if you read The New York Times, you increasingly don’t just perceive a different reality, but inhabit one. There was a time when we overlapped in where we got our information. A time when a lot of it came from reading local newspapers. The gap wasn’t so stark as it is now. And because of those echo chambers and because of social media, you’ve got a lot of people who voted for Donald Trump, for example, who are convinced that climate change isn’t real, who are convinced that the pandemic wasn’t mishandled, who are convinced that he actually won the election. And those right-wing outlets feed those convictions. Let’s be honest about this, there’s only one side that has rejected a respect for facts, logic, science, and the rule of law. And until we repair that breach and return to some common baseline of facts from which to discuss the direction of the country, it’s going to be a real challenge to not only bring the country together, but actually address the problems that are real, whether you believe in them or not.(less)
Barack Obama Well, I know this is a unique time to be graduating high school and heading to college. It’s already a moment when you begin to take charge of your ow…moreWell, I know this is a unique time to be graduating high school and heading to college. It’s already a moment when you begin to take charge of your own life and decide what’s important to you – the kind of career you want to pursue, who you want to build a family with, the values you want to live by. That’s unsettling at any time, and given the state of the world, it can be scarier than usual right now. Your generation has had to grow up faster than most.

And yet, with so much up for grabs right now, your generation also has more power than most to upend the way things have always been done and reshape the world in your own image.

My daughters are only a couple years older than you are. And what I’ve found in your generation is that you actually believe the better lessons your parents and teachers taught you, even when we don’t always live up to those lessons ourselves. You’re more open to people’s differences. You’re less rigid in your thinking about people needing to be a certain way, or having to move through the world a certain way, or how we should measure success. To pick a more concrete example, I think the protests we saw this summer embodied that more expansive moral imagination. White suburban kids, for example, could look at what happened to George Floyd and say, that’s wrong, that’s not the country I want us to be, and I want to do something about it.

Whether it’s social justice or rethinking the economy or really figuring out climate change, I find young people to be both idealistic and impatient. The question is, especially when your generation processes and shares information in far different ways than others, how do we harness those impulses and translate it into actual policy and institutional change without allowing the sometimes slow and frustrating mechanisms of democracy grind down those impulses?

I had to figure all that out myself when I was your age. Your very question places you a few years ahead of where I was. I start my book as a young person, just a mixed-race kid without wealth or power in America, specifically to show you that the presidency wasn’t some kind of birthright for me, or that I was good at everything. I just hitched my wagon to something bigger. If I can make a difference, so can you.

Part of the theme of this book is this contest of ideas between two visions: a vision that says that, for all our differences, we share a common humanity, and it is possible for us, in a multiracial, multiethnic country and world, to see each other, understand each other, respect each other, and work towards progress together. In the scope of human history, this vision is new. This idea that everybody has rights, and everybody’s voice is equal, and together, we can do great things with our democracy – it’s still an experiment. It’s still fragile. But there’s also an older, contrasting vision that says we’re just a collection of tribes, inevitably at war, and it’s all a zero-sum game with winners and losers in hierarchies of power and subjugation. And these contrasting visions are clashing with each other right now, not just in America, but around the world.

Your generation is going to have to decide which way the world goes. I want you to know that it’s within your power to create a better world, and that governments aren’t distant systems that are imposed upon you, they’re systems that you have the agency to control and shape if you’re willing to dive in and keep at it.

More than anything, I wrote this book as an invitation for you not only to imagine a better world – but to build it yourselves.(less)
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Barack’s Recent Updates

Barack Obama answered Danielle Gibbie's question: Barack Obama
Stay involved in democracy. Fight for democracy. It can be messy and frustrating, believe me, I know. I understand why many Americans are frustrated by government and feel like it doesn’t make a difference. It’s not perfect, and not supposed to be. I See Full Answer
Barack Obama answered Abby Schmidt's question: Barack Obama
I appreciate that, Abby. It’s a lot easier than the writing process – it’s certainly faster. It is a long book, which made for a long recording schedule. But many of my speeches over the years have clocked in at an hour long, so I can handle a lot of See Full Answer
More of Barack's books…
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Barack Obama

“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”
Barack Obama

“A change is brought about because ordinary people do extraordinary things.”
Barack Obama

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