Five You Should Know: President Barack Obama

Photo: Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Julia J. Norrell in memory of Lindy Boggs. © Mariana Cook. Permission required for use.

Celebrate Presidents’ Day with five little-known facts about President Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States of America.

1. Pres. Obama was the first African American elected as president of Harvard’s Law Review.

The Harvard Law Review was founded in 1887 and is considered one of the country’s most prestigious legal journals. Law Review journals are an important aspect of law schools. Not only  does it allow students to improve their research and writing, but it offers scholars and judges fresh research to new legal arguments. In 1990, Barack Obama was elected the first black president of the law review, at 28 years old. The position is considered the highest student position at Harvard Law School.

2. Pres. Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago’s Law School.

Barack Obama was a professor at University of Chicago’s Law School from 1992 until his election to the US Senate in 2004. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996 and a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004. As Senior Lecturer, he taught three courses per year. He was invited to join the faculty in a full time- tenure track position several times during his 12 years as a professor, but he declined. Each of the Law School’s Senior Lecturers, Obama included, had high-demand careers in politics or public service, which made teaching full time difficult.

Photo: Banner from the 2008 Obama campaign headquarters in Columbia, Missouri, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture; Gift of the Mid­ Missouri Campaign Field Office, Columbia, MO.

3. Upon his election, Obama was only the fifth African American U.S. Senator.

To date, only nine African Americans have served in the U.S. Senate; but when he was elected in 2004, Pres Obama was only the fifth. The following African Americans have been elected to the US Senate:

Photo: Portrait of Barack Obama, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

4. Pres. Obama has authored New York Times Bestseller books.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance was published in 1995 and reissued in 2004. In this book, he tells the story of his struggle to find his identity as the son of a black African father and white American mother. He opens up about his personal background and how it formed his character. The Audacity of Hope was published in 2006 and was influenced by his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address. Within the first month of its release, the Audacity of Hope sold about 860,000 copies. In 2010, he released a children’s book, Of Thee I Sing: A Letter To My Daughters, that mentions thirteen groundbreaking Americans. Illustrated by Loren Long, the book introduces the contributions of Georgia O’Keefe, Jackie Robinson, and George Washington.

Photo: Hand­painted banner for Obama presidential campaign, Collection of the SmithsonianNational Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Elizabeth Hess.

5. Pres. Obama’s First Inaugural Ceremony in 2009 was record breaking.

According to the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, Pres. Obama’s first inaugural ceremonies included these facts, firsts, or precedents:

  • Largest attendance of any event in the history of Washington, DC
  • Largest attendance of any Presidential Inauguration in U.S. history
  • First African American to hold the office of President of the United States
  • First citizen born in Hawaii to hold the office
  • Highest viewership ever of the swearing-in ceremonies on the Internet
  • First woman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, to emcee the ceremony
  • First inaugural webcast to include captioning
  • First swearing-in ceremony to include an audio description

By Shannon C., Social Media Volunteer, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. 



When you look back at 2015, these magazine covers suggest that Black men are stylish, artistic, successful, athletic, industrious, innovative, introspective and culturally relevant. With the enormous challenges and imbalances with social justice and African American men, it’s nice to see a more positive portrayal of success, elevation and beating the odds. 

President Obama Calls the International Space Station

President Obama made a special phone call today - all the way to the International Space Station. During his chat, American astronauts Scott Kelly and Kjell Lindgren highlighted some important things we’re doing here at NASA: 

One Year Mission

Astronaut Scott Kelly is a little over halfway through his One-Year Mission, and the President wanted to know how he was doing. Kelly’s year in space is providing essential research on our journey to Mars. The studies performed throughout his time on the space station will give us new insights to how the human body adjusts to weightlessness, isolation, radiation and stress during long duration spaceflight. 

Adjusting to Microgravity… Like Riding a Bike?

During the call, the President asked Kelly if anything has surprised him while he’s been in space. Kelly responded and told him that he was surprised at how easily he remembered and adapted to microgravity from his previous missions. The President remarked, “So being an astronaut is like riding a bicycle?”

In space, there is no “up” or “down.” That can mess with the human brain and affect the way people move and think in space. An investigation on the International Space Station seeks to understand how the brain changes in space and ways to deal with those changes.

Research on the International Space Station

November marks the 15 years of continuous human presence on the International Space Station! During the call, the President pointed out that many of today’s children have never known a time when we didn’t have astronauts living aboard the International Space Station. Pretty amazing! There are currently more than 400 experiments on the station that will not only help us achieve our goals in space, but will also benefit life on Earth. 

Inspiring the Next Generation

President Obama made sure to tell Kelly and Lindgren that he was proud of the work they’re doing to inspire the next generation of astronauts. He even mentioned how Scott Kelly’s Instagram feed provides an amazing glimpse into life for would-be astronauts. This next generation will be the first humans to step foot on Mars.

Journey To Mars

President Obama highlighted the fact that he has tasked NASA with sending humans on a journey to Mars. He hopes to see the first humans walk on the Martian surface in his lifetime, and supports the work we’re doing to get there. 


White House flag lowered to half-staff as mark of respect for victims of the Orlando attack.

Made with Instagram

Pres. Obama made 10 phone calls to US service members this‪#‎Thanksgiving‬ morning: 2 from Army, 2 from Marine Corps, 2 from Navy, 2 from Air Force and 2 from Coast Guard. “He thanked all of them for their service, and he wished them and their families a Happy Thanksgiving,” the White House says.


Who would win a rap battle…Kendrick or Drake? Who do you think President Obama picked? #PresidentObama #Drake #kendricklamar #HipHop #Rap #Music #Zatoon #Passion #Respect #Culture #Diversity #lifestyle #StrongRoots

Made with Instagram

H. Rap Brown Breaks down Politics of America on Like It Is w/ Gil Noble

HRB: Even if one of the Black candidates …were to take the office of President, then Black people must be prepared to fight against that person”

Interviewer (Gil Noble): Why?

HRB: “Because you see.. the system mandates the action of the individual. The individual does not determine how this country will function. This country works off the military industrial complex; which means that it’s profitable to wage war. And unless you you know devise another plan or another scheme to sustain or to boost this economy, then it’s going to necessary to wage war – whether you know,  a black individual is on office or a white individual in office. So we’re talking about a complete change in system”

That was from over 40 years ago…what has changed?