25 Little-Known Facts about Barack Obama

25 Little-Known Facts about Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Il). Source: Creative Commons

Barack Hussein Obama II made history on January 20, 2009 when he was inaugurated as the first African-American president of the United States. A popular international figure, President Obama is well-known for his charming character, inspiring speeches, athleticism, and leadership skills. This article highlights some interesting facts about Barack Obama that you probably didn’t know about. 

1.      His name has a special meaning

Given that President Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Sr. was from Kenya, his son Obama Jr. inherited his father’s last name. The name ‘Obama’ derives from the Luo (a local tribe in Kenya) word ‘Obama’ meaning ‘to bend’ or ‘bending.’

The name ‘Barack’, on the other hand, derives from the Swahili word “Baraka”, which means “blessing” or “the one who is blessed.” Swahili is a popular Bantu language widely used in Kenya, the country of Barack Obama Snr’s origin. (Thought Co) 

2.      He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii

Even though his original place of birth was one of the most hotly-contested topics when he announced his intention to become president of the United States and even after becoming president, Barack finally proved that he was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. His birth certificate indicated that he was born on August 4, 1961 at the Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu. His father was Barack Hussein Obama Sr, and his mother Ann Stanley Dunham. (BBC)

Facts about Barack Obama
Barack Obama with his mother at the Punahou by U.S. Embassy Jakarta, Indonesia. Source: Creative Commons

3.      First president to be born in the 50th US State

Barack Obama is the first president of the United States to be born in the state of Hawaii. He is also the first US president to be born outside of the 48 contiguous states. (Politico) 

4.      His parents divorced when he was two years old

Obama’s parents divorced in 1964 when he was only two years old. He would then move to Indonesia with his mother and stepfather Lolo Soetoro, where they lived for four years. (Oprah Mag) 

5.      He ate some strange foods in Indonesia

One of the most jaw-dropping facts about Barack Obama is that he ate some strange foods while growing up in Indonesia. In his book Dreams from My Father, Obama revealed that he ate snake meat, dog meat, and roasted grasshoppers, a popular delicacy among the locals in the Southeast Asian country. He wrote:

“I learned how to eat small green chili peppers raw with dinner (plenty of rice), and, away from the dinner table, I was introduced to dog meat (tough), snake meat (tougher), and roasted grasshopper (crunchy).” (Dreams from My Father) 

6.      He was nicknamed ‘O’Bomber’ in high school

As if his official names did not have enough meaning, Barack was fondly referred to as ‘O’Bomber’ during his high school days. This was due to his love for basketball, a sport he enjoyed playing since his childhood and in the White House. (NDTV)

7.      He is an attorney 

Obama joined a law firm in Chicago in 1993 as a civil rights attorney after graduating from Harvard. He worked as an associate for the first three years, and then became a counsel for eight years. (CNN) 

8.      He met his wife at a law firm

Barack and Michelle Obama met at the Sidney Austin law firm where they worked together. At the time, Obama was only 27 years old and Michelle was a junior lawyer at the firm. They got married on October 3, 1992 and have been together since. The couple has been blessed with two daughters: Malia and Natasha (Sasha) Obama. (CNN) 

Facts about Barack Obama
Barack Obama and Michelle on Election Day – November 6th. Source: Creative Commons

9.      Watched Do The Right Thing on their first date

When Barack and Michelle went out for their first date in 1989, they watched Do The Right Thing, a comedy-drama movie directed by Spike Lee. It highlighted the racial injustices in America, with a special focus on Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. Interestingly, the movie also marked the official film debut of celebrated American actor Martin Lawrence, who starred as ‘Cee.’ (YouTube) 

10.     He has won the Grammys twice

One of the most interesting facts about Barack Obama is that he is a two-time Grammy Award Winner. The 44th President of the United States won the Grammy Award for the Best Spoken Word Album for his books The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father, which were also recorded as audiobooks. (Grammy) 

11.     He is not Muslim

Despite bearing the Islamic name ‘Hussein’, Obama is not a Muslim. The controversial issue of religion was one of the main talking points of his political career. But despite having been born to a Muslim father, who rarely practiced Islam, Obama maintains that he is Christian. In a 2006 speech, he said:

“My father, who returned to Kenya when I was just two, was born Muslim but as an adult became an atheist. My mother, whose parents were non-practicing Baptists and Methodists, was probably one of the most spiritual and kindest people I’ve ever known, but grew up with a healthy skepticism of organized religion herself. As a consequence, so did I.” (The New York Times) 

12.     First US president to have a Catholic vice-president

On August 23, 2008, Obama named Joe Biden as his running-mate on their way to clinching the historic victory. By so doing, Obama also became the first US president to have a Catholic running-mate, and future vice-president. (NPR) 

13.     He held the record of the most votes cast for a president

In 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president of the United States for the first time, he garnered nearly 69,500,000 votes; no other president in the country’s history had won more votes prior to Obama. However, the record was broken in November 2020 by Joe Biden, former vice-president in the Obama administration, when he defeated Donald J. Trump to become the 46th president-elect of the United States. (US News) 

14.     Neither of his parents witnessed his inauguration

Sadly for Barack, he lost his parents way before his fame and success as a politician and a public figure. His father, Obama Sr, died in a car accident in 1982. His mother, Ann Dunham, succumbed to cervical cancer in 1995. (The White House Archives) 

15.     He is the first US president to address the UK Parliament

On May 25, 2011, President Obama became the first US president to address the UK Parliament. Additional information of this historic achievement, which makes its way into our list of facts about Barack Obama, is available on the White House Archives website. Prior to his speech, the other three high-profile speakers who had addressed the UK Parliament at Westminster Hall were the Pope, Her Majesty the Queen of England, and former South African president Nelson Mandela. (The White House Archives) 

Facts about Barack Obama
Barack Obama meets UK MPs. Source: Creative Commons

16.     He was the 10th tallest president in US history

Standing 6 foot and one and a half inches tall, which loosely translates to 187 centimeters, Barack Obama was the 10th tallest president of the United States. His basketball skills aside, his height also contributed to his success on the court during his high school years. Abraham Lincoln holds the record of being the tallest president of the US, standing 6 foot and four inches tall. He was six centimeters taller than President Obama. (Statista) 

17.     First sitting US president to support same-sex marriage

One of the most fascinating facts about Barack Obama is that he was the first sitting president of the United States to support same sex marriage. On Wednesday May 9, 2012, in an interview with ABC news, Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, which drew criticism from all corners. Political analysts described Obama’s decision as political suicide, but despite the criticism, he won another second term in office. (CNN Politics) 

18.     He had a wooden sculpture holding an egg in his White House office

The presence of a wooden sculpture of a hand holding an egg in his office is one of the little-known facts about Barack Obama. The then president obtained the sculpture during his 2006 visit to his ancestral home in Kenya. According to African tradition, the hand symbolizes the position of power, while the egg symbolizes the fragility of leadership. If the egg (power) is held too tightly, it breaks. However, if it is held too loosely, it slips from grasp. (America.gov) 

19.     Has read all seven Harry Potter books

If you thought you’ve read enough facts about Barack Obama, there’s even more. The former president has read all seven Harry Potter books, particularly to his daughter Malia. He even admitted this to J. K. Rowling, the author, at a dinner during a G20 Summit.  (Telegraph UK)

20.     He carries good luck charms

There are at least three different luck charms that President Obama carries with him. They include Madonna, Christ as a child statue and a bracelet belonging to Sgt. Ryan David Jopek, a soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq. The bracelet was given to Obama in 2008 by the mother of the fallen soldier at a campaign rally in Green Bay. (Fox News & The New York Post) 

21.     First president to write a line of code

One of the coolest facts about Barack Obama is that he was the first US president to write a line of code. This happened in December 2014 when he attended the Computer Science Education Week. The event was meant to promote the importance of STEM education, particularly for girls and other underrepresented minorities. His first line of code was moveForwarrd(100); and was written in JavaScript to teach kids how to code using the movie Frozen. (White House Archives) 

22.     First president to visit a federal prison

On Thursday July 2015, Obama became the first sitting president of the United States to visit a federal prison. He met half a dozen inmates at the El Reno prison in Oklahoma in a bid to push for criminal justice reforms. Speaking during the visit, President Obama said that there was a need to reconsider policies that contributed to the increase in number of inmates behind bars in the United States. (NPR) 

23.     First president to have his official portrait taken with a digital camera

This is yet one of the little-known facts about Barack Obama. In January 2009, he became the first US president to have his official portrait taken with a digital camera. The portrait was taken by Pete Souza, the then official White House photographer, using a Canon EOS 5D Mark II. (CNET) 

24.     He digitalized the Presidential Library

Still on matters digital, President Obama is the first president to digitalize the Presidential Library. Prior to the digitalization, all previous presidential libraries were in physical forms. (Obama Presidential Library) 

25.     He tried modelling at Harvard

This one basically tops all jaw-dropping facts about Barack Obama that we have mentioned so far. Yes, he tried to model while he was still studying at Harvard. However, his modeling career did not last that long after he got rejected by the all-female committee. Well, who knows, the rejection was probably good for him as he was destined for something greater – the presidency of the United States. (CNN) 

These are some of the most interesting facts about Barack Obama that you probably didn’t know about. But before signing out, here are some bonus facts to keep in mind. 

  • He is not a coffee person – His former aide Reggie Love once revealed that Obama preferred orange juice, green tea, or water to coffee in the morning (Business Insider)
  • He admitted to smoking marijuana and cocaine back in high school (ABC News) 
  • He has no full siblings, but has numerous half siblings (The Oprah Magazine) 
  • He dislikes ice cream despite having worked at Baskin-Robbins before as a teenager (Yahoo Finance) 

After serving as president of the United States for eight years, his term ended on January 20, 2017 at noon. He currently lives at a rented house in Kalorama, Washington, D.C. Even after retirement from his presidential role, President Obama continues to be involved in various social, political, and economic issues, most notably in 2020 when he was actively involved in campaigning for his former vice-president Joe Biden for the presidency of the United States. 

SOURCES:

Thought Co: https://www.thoughtco.com/obama-last-name-meaning-and-origin-3860852

Oprah Magazine: https://www.oprahmag.com/life/a34670592/barack-obamas-parents/

Politico: https://www.politico.com/story/2018/08/04/barack-obama-born-in-hawaii-aug-4-1961-752111

BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-13213810

NDTV: https://www.ndtv.com/photos/news/in-pics-obamas-night-four-more-years-11050

NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/politicaljunkie/2009/01/the_first_catholic_vice_presid.html

The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/us/politics/2006obamaspeech.html

The White House: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/25/remarks-president-parliament-london-united-kingdom   

Statista: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1115255/us-presidents-heights/

Grammy: https://www.grammy.com/grammys/artists/barack-obama/4975

CNN Politics: https://www.cnn.com/2012/05/09/politics/obama-same-sex-marriage/index.html

Telegraph UK: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/g20-summit/5095227/G20-summit-Barack-Obama-is-a-fan-of-Harry-Potter.html

Dreams from My Father: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00573YVVY/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Fox News: https://www.foxnews.com/story/obama-wears-bracelet-given-to-him-by-mother-of-soldier-killed-in-iraq

The New York Post: https://nypost.com/2008/09/27/the-tale-of-two-bracelets/

The White House Archives: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2014/12/10/president-obama-first-president-write-line-code

The White House Archives: https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2009/01/21/president-barack-obamas-inaugural-address

NPR: https://www.npr.org/sections/itsallpolitics/2015/07/16/423612441/obama-visits-federal-prison-a-first-for-a-sitting-president

US News: https://www.usnews.com/news/elections/articles/2020-11-04/joe-biden-breaks-barack-obamas-popular-vote-record

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2WLOKdH7BM

America.gov: https://share.america.gov/president-obama-favorite-superhero/

CNET: https://www.cnet.com/news/another-first-presidential-portrait-shot-with-digicam/

ABC News: https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/BothSidesAllSides/story?id=2773754&page=1

Obama Presidential Library: https://www.obamalibrary.gov/

Business Insider: https://www.businessinsider.com/barack-obama-morning-routine-mental-toughness-2016-8

The Oprah Magazine: https://www.oprahmag.com/entertainment/a34670164/barack-obama-siblings/

Yahoo Finance: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/barack-obama-used-baskin-robbins-155700560.html

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