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Chicago: Where it Began

The Obama Administration


From Michelle (Robinson) Obama’s childhood in the South Shore community through Barack Obama’s years of teaching at the University of Chicago Law School, and their historic 2008 election night celebration in Grant Park, The Barack Obama Foundation story starts in Chicago.

Raised on the South Side

January 17, 1964

Mrs. Obama, then Michelle Robinson, grew up in a two-story house on Euclid Avenue in Chicago’s South Shore community, and attended elementary school down the street. Her father, Fraser, was a city pump operator and a Democratic precinct captain. Her mother, Marian, was a secretary at the Spiegel catalog, who later stayed home to raise Michelle and her older brother, Craig.

A young Michelle Obama (née Robinson) with her brother Craig
President and Ms.Obama sit with young sasha and malia in black and white.

A young Michelle Obama (née Robinson) with her brother Craig


Barack and Michelle Obama with their daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Organizing in Roseland

The years (1985-1988) President Obama spent working as a community organizer on the South Side were “the best education I ever had,” he recalls. As the executive director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP) in the Roseland neighborhood, Obama helped set up a job training program, a college-prep tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organization in the Altgeld Gardens housing projects.

Barack Obama on the South Side gathering signatures for his nominating petition
Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, image via Google Maps.

Senator Obama on 71st St. in South Shore, 1995 photo (C) Marc PoKemper


The Roseland neighborhood of Chicago, via Google Maps.

Michelle and Barack's First Date

July 1, 1989

In 1989, President Obama took a summer internship at a top Chicago law firm, Sidley & Austin, where a young associate named Michelle Robinson was assigned to be his adviser and show him around. He remembers, "I asked her out. She refused. I kept asking. She kept refusing. Finally, I offered to quit my job, and at last she relented."

President Obama leans over to whisper in Ms.Obama´s ear in front of a crowd of people with various skin tone

President Barack Obama whispers into First Lady Michelle Obama's ear during the White House Cinco de Mayo celebration May 4, 2009. (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

The Academic Life: The University of Chicago

August 1, 1992

Barack Obama taught on the University of Chicago Law School faculty for 12 years until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004. Michelle Obama provided leadership in several senior administrative roles at the University and its medical center.

Barack Obama teaching at U Chicago

Barack Obama teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

A Promise: The Wedding of Barack and Michelle

October 3, 1992

In October 3, 1992 Barack and Michelle Obama celebrated their wedding day at the South Shore Cultural Center. Of President Obama's vows on that day, Mrs. Obama remembers: "Barack didn't pledge riches, only a life that would be interesting. On that promise he delivered."

Barack and Michelle Obama on their wedding day

Barack and Michelle Obama on their wedding day.

Turning Out the Vote on the South Side

November 3, 1992

1992 was an election year, and Barack Obama became the director of Illinois Project Vote!, an organization focused on registering minority voters. That year, a huge turnout among African Americans forever altered Chicago’s electoral landscape, and a 31-year-old lawyer became a rising political star.

Barack Obama in 1992

Barack Obama in 1992 back in Chicago, where he ran a voter registration drive.

A Seat in the State Senate

November 5, 1996

The State of Illinois elected Barack Obama to the Illinois State Senate in November 1996. He became a leading legislator on a wide range of issues, passing nearly 300 bills aimed at helping children, the elderly, labor unions, and the poor.

Candidate Obama in New Hampshire
Candidate Obama in NH
Candidiate Obama in New Hampshire

Barack Obama’s Speech at 2004 DNC Convention

July 27, 2004
“I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on earth, is my story even possible.”
- Then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama, 2004

The 2008 Campaign: Yes We Can

January 1, 2008

Senator Barack Obama, stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol building in Springfield, Illinois on February 10, 2007 and declared his candidacy for President of the United States. Next to him on that day were his wife, Michelle, and daughters, Sasha and Malia. He told listeners that day, “… this campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us — it must be about what we can do together.

Candidate Obama with daughters

President Candidacy Announcement, Springfield, IL, February 10, 2007. (Obama for America)

Barack and Michelle Obama hug onstage in November 2008.
Barack Obama at a rally in Austin, TX
Senator Barack Obama speaks in front of the Ohio State Capitol

Barack and Michelle Obama, Pueblo, CO, November 1, 2008 (Obama for America).


Austin Rally, Austin, TX, February 23, 2007 (Mike Nicholson/Obama for America)


Democratic Presidential Nominee, Senator Barack Obama speaks in front of the Ohio State Capitol on Sunday, November, 2, 2008. (David Katz/Obama for America)

Senator Barack Obama speaks in front of the Ohio State Capitol

Democratic Presidential Nominee, Senator Barack Obama speaks in front of the Ohio State Capitol on Sunday, November, 2, 2008. (David Katz/Obama for America)

“So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.”
- President-elect Barack Obama, November 2008

An Historic Night in Grant Park

November 4, 2008

On November 4, 2008, President-elect Barack Obama gave a victory speech to remember at Grant Park before an estimated crowd of 240,000.

Barack Obama and his family
Barack Obama and his family
Barack Obama and his family on election night
“This is the highlight in Chicago’s history to have the first African American president hail from Chicago and have a president from Chicago. It’s the first time since John F. Kennedy that a president comes from an urban community like ours. That’s a long way. We don’t have to educate him about all the urban problems. He knows them all first hand.”
- Mayor Richard Daley, November 2008
An image compilation of a blue, green. and brown poster with a tree, Obama rising sun logo, and "progress", a red, white, and blue Obama '08 campaign poster, black Obama '08 legacy campaign hat

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The 2012 Campaign: Forward

January 1, 2012
“Tonight in the election, you the American people reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.”
- President Barack Obama, November 2012
President Obama, eyes squinted and large smile, looks at a child through a big black magnifying glass. They appear to be in a classroom with other children nearby.

Learn more about the Obama Administration

Browse the story of President Obama’s administration and the Obama family’s time in the White House.