Barack Obama / Barack Obama - Key Events

Barack Obama - Key Events

Child Care grant

The Child Care and Development Block Grant of 2014 is signed into law. This act provides grants to states so they can assist low-income families in finding child care for their children.

Obama wins election

Barack Obama is elected president by defeating Senator John McCain with nearly 53 percent of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes (out of 538). 


On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. He was the first African American President in U.S. history.

Obama emerged as an unlikely candidate during the 2008 presidential campaign. He was born and raised in Hawaii. His mother, a white American from Kansas, and his father, a black Kenyan studying in the United States, met as students at the University of Hawaii. After attending school in Hawaii, Obama moved to the mainland for college—first attending Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, and then graduating from Columbia University in New York City.

Obama then moved to Chicago, Illinois, and began working as a community organizer, helping low-income residents improve their public housing conditions. In 1988, he enrolled at Harvard Law School. During the 1990-1991 academic year, he was president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review, the first African American elected to the position. Returning to Chicago, Obama worked in a civil rights law firm and as a lecturer at the University of Chicago.

He first entered public office as a state senator in 1997. Obama attracted national attention in the summer of 2004 when he gave the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention. “There's not a liberal America and a conservative America,” he declared. “There's a United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America. There's a United States of America.”

After serving as a state legislator for eight years, Obama ran for the U.S. Senate and won the election in 2004 by the largest margin in the history of Senate elections in Illinois. As a first-term Senator, he launched his presidential campaign in February 2007. After a hard-fought Democratic primary against Senator and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, Obama secured the Democratic Party nomination in June 2008. Two days before the Democratic National Convention, he picked Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware as his vice presidential running mate.

The 2008 presidential campaign featured the Democratic ticket of Barack Obama and Joseph Biden against the Republican ticket of Senator John McCain of Arizona and his vice presidential running mate, Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska. Obama and Biden won the election handily, 53 percent of the popular vote to 46 percent and 365 Electoral College votes to 173.  

Executive order to close Guantánamo Bay

Obama signs an executive order to close the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within one year. Guantánamo Bay is a detention center where individuals considered to be a national threat to the United States are detained and questioned in controversial conditions. His executive order encountered strong Congressional resistance, and the prison remained open after he left office.

Signing of first bill

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act become law. The bill makes it easier for people to challenge unequal pay complaints and is designed to help address the wage gap between men and women.

Cap on top executive pay

Obama forces companies receiving federal bailout money from the federal government to set a cap on executive pay at $500,000.

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is signed into law by President Obama while in Denver, Colorado. The purpose of the act was to save and create jobs and to provide relief to those most affected by the economic crisis of 2008-2009.

Stem cell research

The president overturns a rule that restricted the amount of federal money that could be used on embryonic stem cell research.

New age Fireside Chats

Obama hosts the first-ever online discussion at the White House. He livestreams himself answering questions asked by people online via the administration’s website.

Justice Sotomayor

Obama nominates federal judge Sonia Sotomayor to take over for retiring Justice David Souter. She is confirmed in August.

Speech in Cairo

The president gives a speech at Cairo University in Egypt, discussing the U.S. relations with countries in the Middle East.

Nobel Peace Prize

Obama is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

HIV travel ban

Obama lifts a 22-year-old ban that restricts those with HIV/AIDS from entering the United States.

Hate Crimes Prevention Act

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act becomes law to help jurisdictions to investigate and prosecute hate crimes more effectively.

Haiti aid

Obama pledges $100,000,000 to assist Haiti in recovery from the devastating earthquake that hit the country on January 12.

Volcker Rule

Obama announces the Volcker Rule, which seeks to restrict U.S. banks from engaging in certain speculative investments that would not be in the best interest of the customer.

Nuclear reactor loans

Obama declares more than $8.3 billion in loan guarantees to Southern Company to construct two new nuclear reactors in Burke County, Georgia.

School grants

Obama announces $900 million in grants that will be given to under-performing schools if they accept new reforms.

Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, becomes law. This is the most significant regulatory makeover of the U.S. healthcare system since the 1960s. Under the new regulations, Obama sought to increase quality, affordability, and access to healthcare.

East Coast drilling

Obama announces he will approve exploration for oil and gas in the Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Virginia, which had been previously banned.

Reduction of nuclear arms

President Obama and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia sign the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). This is an agreement to reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons by the United States and Russia.

Budget funding for NASA

 Obama proposes adding $6 billion to NASA’s budget over the next five years. The funding would be used for space exploration rather than lunar exploration.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill

An explosion on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana results in 11 deaths and a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil rig was leased by BP.

West Virginia coal miners

Obama delivers a eulogy for the 29 West Virginia coal miners who died in an explosion earlier in the month.

Justice Kagan

Obama nominates Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court. She is sworn into office in August.  

BP oil spill

Obama discusses the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico caused by BP. The president says that BP will have to pay heavy reparations for their malpractice.

Wall Street reform

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is signed by President Obama. The Act gives regulators stronger authority when it comes to breaking up large companies and attempts to protect the consumer by restricting practices in consumer loans and credit cards.

Veteran education reform

Obama puts into practice the post-911 GI Bill. This bill assists in obtaining a free or cheaper college tuition for those who have served in the U.S. military.

Rosa’s law

Obama signs Rosa’s Law, which changes the diction of federal statutes that use “mental retardation” to “intellectual disability.”

Equal access, opportunity, and respect

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act becomes law. It sets new standards so that Americans who are deaf, blind, or live with a visual impairment have equal access and opportunity to new technological innovations.

Midterm elections

In the midterm elections, Republicans gained 6 seats in the Senate, reducing the Democrats' majority in that chamber from 18 (59 to 41) to 6 (53 to 47). The GOP also added 63 seats in the House of Representatives, enough to gain control of the House by a 242 to 193 majority in the 112th Congress.

Two-year pay freeze proposal

In attempt to get the deficit under control, the president freezes pay raises on federal employees for two years starting on January 1, 2011.

First presidential pardons

President Obama pardons nine individuals with crimes ranging from drug charges to conspiracy.

Healthy kids

Obama signs the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. This funds nutrition and free lunch programs, sets new standards for schools, and allocates money for the implementation of these new provisions.

Extension of Bush tax cuts

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 becomes law. This extends the tax cuts instituted by President Bush in the early 2000s and also provides additional provisions to promote economic growth in the form of tax cuts.

“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Obama repeals the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which allows people to openly be gay, lesbian, and bisexual while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Tucson shootings

At a constituent meeting in Tucson, Arizona, a gunman open fired, shooting 19 people, killing 6 of them. Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head; she resigned her seat in the House to focus on her recovery. The President and First Lady traveled to Tucson, and Obama offered his remarks during a memorial service for the victims.

New START treaty

Obama signs a nuclear arms treaty with Russia, called New START, which seeks to develop our security, relations with Russia, and a world without the fear of nuclear weapons. 

Military trials for detainees

Obama orders the end on the ban on military trials for detainees at Guantánamo Bay. This order permits the United States to resume military trials for detainees

Osama Bin Laden killed

Obama announces the death of Osama Bin Laden, who was the leader of Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the U.S. terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. (Bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011, in Pakistan but it was still May 1 in the United States when the president announced his death.)

Budget Control Act

The Budget Control Act becomes law. It raises the federal debt ceiling, causes the United States to avoid default, and creates a bipartisan committee to discuss debt issues.

American Jobs Act

President Obama makes an address to the joint session of Congress to present the American Jobs Act, which is designed to improve the U.S. economy.

End of Iraq War

President Obama announces that U.S. troops will be home from Iraq by December and that the U.S. role in the war is over.

Iranian sanctions

Obama signs an executive order that freezes the assets of the Iranian government held within the United States due to Iran engaging in what Obama called, “deceptive practices.”

Against insider trading

The Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (STOCK) is signed by President Obama. It seeks to eliminate insider trading and prohibits the use of non-public information for profit in the private sector.

Gay marriage

President Obama announces his support of same-sex marriage.

Democratic National Convention

Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for president and speaks to the convention.


Obama defeats Republican Mitt Romney to win a second term in office with 332 electoral votes to 206 and 51 percent of the popular vote.

Sandy Hook shooting

The president addresses the nation after a shooting at the Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut results in the death of 20 children and 6 adults. He pledges to fight for gun control legislation.

Taxpayer relief

Obama signs the American Taxpayer Relief Act. This extended tax breaks for the majority of Americans while raising the tax rates for top earners.

Second Inauguration

Barack Obama is inaugurated into his second term as president. He was sworn into office in a private ceremony on Sunday, January 20, but the official ceremony took place the next day.

Immigration reform

Obama gives a speech outlining his proposal for comprehensive immigration reform.

Violence against women

The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 becomes law. This act seeks to provide increased protection for women under the law by improving law enforcement tools to combat the violence, improving services for victims of violent crimes, and improving awareness and violence reduction practices.

Climate plan

In a speech at Georgetown University, the president announces the Climate Action Plan, which is designed to lower carbon pollution, prepare for the impending effects of climate change, and to address reversing climate change as a global endeavor.

“Trayvon Martin could have been me”

Obama delivers remarks on the murder of Trayvon Martin. He discusses why the African American community was enraged at the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Obama stated, “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.”

Student loans

Obama signs into law the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013. This act outlines how the government should distribute loans to students and other tactics for helping students with crippling debt.

Chemical weapons in Syria

President Obama gives a speech about the war in Syria and President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against his own people.

Government shutdown

A shutdown of the federal government begins after Congress fails to agree on funding legislation. It last 16 days.

Climate change and its effects

Obama signs an executive order in order to prepare the United States for climate change. The order addresses the impacts of climate change and details how the United States will take action to increase readiness against climate change.

State of the Union

Obama gives his State of the Union address, focusing on the country’s low unemployment and increasing inequality.

Agriculture Act of 2014

The Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2014 is signed into law. This act authorizes $956 billion for increased awareness and spending on nutrition and agriculture programs in the United States from 2014 to 2018.

Minimum wage

Obama signs an executive order to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 for all workers on federal contracts.

Russian sanctions

Obama calls for economic sanctions against those responsible for the Russian intervention in Crimea and the stealing of assets of the Ukrainian people.

VA Secretary resigns

Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs, General Eric Shinseki, resigns after it was revealed that veterans had to wait months for care at VA hospitals.

LGBT discrimination

Obama signs an executive order to protect the rights of LGBT employees in the workforce. This does not include an exemption for religious beliefs, which means people cannot discriminate based on their religious preference.

Midterm elections

Republicans retake control of Congress during the midterm elections.

Immigration reform

Obama makes speech to the nation on comprehensive immigration reform. He announces he will use his executive power to allow illegal immigrants currently living within the United States to legally stay and obtain work.

Free community college

Obama proposes to make community college free for students if they adhere to certain criteria such as maintaining a certain GPA. He also outlines what community colleges and the federal government must do in order to facilitate this change.

Veteran suicide epidemic

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is signed into law. This act seeks to raise awareness on veteran suicide, increases opportunity for veterans to receive help, and also makes the Pentagon and Veterans Affairs Department submit reviews of their prevention programs.

50th anniversary of Selma marches

President Obama and his family take part in the 50th anniversary of the civil rights marches in Selma, Alabama.

Eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney

Obama delivers a eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina, following a racially charged shooting that killed nine people worshipping inside a church.

Gay marriage upheld

The U.S. Supreme Court rules 5-4 that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Clean Power Plan

The President along with the Environmental Protection Agency introduces the Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants by more than 30 percent by 2030.

Pope Francis

Obama welcomes Pope Francis for visit at the White House.

Paris Climate Change conference

President Obama attends in the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

Deal with Iran

Obama announces historic agreement with Iran to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons. Iran met conditions for the United States to begin lifting some economic sanctions.

Death of Antonin Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is found dead. Obama nominated Merrick Garland to replace Scalia on the Supreme Court but Republicans in Congress will not hold confirmation hearings.

Cuba trip

Obama becomes the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cuba since 1928.

Flint, Michigan visit

Following the discovery that Flint, Michigan’s water supply had been insufficiently treated and had exposed its residents to dangerously high levels of lead, the President traveled to Flint to try to reassure the people.

Supreme Court upholds health care law

The Supreme Court rules 6-3 that tax credits are available to eligible citizens for insurance purchased on any exchange created under the ACA.

Gives speech at Democratic National Convention

Obama gives a speech at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in support of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

November 8, 2016: Presidential election

Republican candidate Donald J. Trump defeats Hillary Clinton, winning the presidency with 306 electoral votes (although he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes).

November 10, 2016: President-elect visits White House

 President Obama hosts President-elect Donald Trump at the White House, meeting with the press in the Oval Office.

January 20, 2017: Leaving office

President Obama concludes his last day in office. After attending the inauguration of President Trump, the Obamas head off for a vacation in Palm Springs, California. The Obama announced that they will continue to live in Washington, DC, until their younger daughter finishes high school.