Barack Hussein Obama took the oath of office as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009.
On his first day in office, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women and other workers to sue for pay discrimination. The act lifted a previous 180-day time limit for workers to file discrimination suits against employers, and has been hailed as a victory for working women.
On January 22, 2009, President Obama signed an executive order to close down the detention center/prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba within a year. Sadly, the executive order was never fulfilled and Guantanamo Bay remains open, despite outcries from several civil liberties groups. Asked whether the prison would ever be closed, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said in a statement to ABC: "Obviously Congress has taken a number of steps to prevent the closure of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but the President still believes it's in our national security interest and will keep trying."
Signs Order to Close Guantanamo Bay
On February 17, 2009, President Obama signed into law the $787 billion Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The mix of government spending on infrastructure, energy and education, as well as tax cuts and aid for the unemployed, only had the support of three Republicans in the Senate.
On March 19, 2009, President Obama made a special visit to The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. His appearance marked the first time a sitting president has ever been on a late-night talk show. Despite criticism that he was overexposed at the time — he had appeared on 60 Minutes and graced the covers of over a dozen magazines — the President assured the late night host he was able to multi-task, and keep things moving while he visited California.
In June 2009, auto giant General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy — the fourth largest company to do so in American history. The Obama administration responded by unveiling plans for a $34 billion bailout in order for the automotive industry to avoid bankruptcy. To date, the governments owns 500,000,000 shares (about 26%) of General Motors.
For his first European visit as President, Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace on April 1, 2009. The Queen mother strayed from protocol when she briefly put her arm around First Lady Michelle Obama. President Obama would also meet with world leaders at the 2009 G-20 Summit. The group met to find solutions for tackling the global financial crisis.
On one of their first public date nights as President and First Lady, the Obamas depart JFK airport in New York early Sunday, May 31, following their Saturday date night in Manhattan for a private dinner at Blue Hill restaurant in Greenwich Village and a Broadway play. They saw a performance of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, the August Wilson drama that chronicles the struggles of African-Americans in the early 20th century.
President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden sat down with Cambridge, Mass., police Sgt. James Crowley and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. to mediate the situation between Gates and Crowley in the Rose Garden of the White House on Thursday, July 30. Crowley came under fire for arresting Professor Gates as he tried to enter his own home.
The national debate over President Obama's proposed health care reform came to a head in the summer of 2009 as hundreds of angry protestors held heated "town hall" meetings and demonstrations across the country.
On May 26, 2009, President Obama announced federal appeals court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, right, as his nominee for the Supreme Court. On August 8, 2009, Sotomayor became the first Hispanic justice and third woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
South Carolina Republican House member Joe Wilson shouted, "You lie" during President Obama's health care speech to Congress on September 9, 2009. Wilson later apologized, saying he let his "emotions get the best of [him] when listening to the president's remarks regarding the coverage of illegal immigrants in the health care bill."
President Obama was awarded with the Nobel Peace prize on December 10, 2009. The Nobel Foundation said it had awarded the president "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
President Obama announced the country’s new strategy to increase troops in Afghanistan and aid in Pakistan to weaken the deadly forces of Al-Qaeda. During a White House press conference announcing the troop surge, President vowed to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat" the al-Qaeda network in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
President Obama signed the Affordable Health Care for America Act during a ceremony with fellow Democrats in the East Room of the White House March 23, 2010. The historic bill was passed by the House of Representatives Sunday after a 14-month-long political battle that left the health care legislation without a single Republican vote.
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico and quickly became the worst oil disaster in U.S. history. The Obama administration was accused of allowing BP oil company to take the lead in containment efforts. President Obama in particular was accused of not showing sufficient anger at the lack of oversight by the oil company.
During a televised national address, President Obama formally declared an end to the combat mission in Iraq on August 31, 2010, after seven years of war. The president added that the United States had met its responsibility in Iraq and would now focus on issues back home.
President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act on July 21, 2010. The law, which came as a response to the Great Recession, places major regulations on the financial industry and protects consumers from abusive lending practices by banks.
Republicans took control of the House following midterm elections in November 2010 and installed Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio as the new speaker. In a White House press conference President Obama called the election "humbling."
President Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010 bringing an end of the ban on openly gay men and women serving in in the military.
President Obama signed the Claims Resolution Act for wronged farmers in December 2010. Thousands of minority farmers saw some measure of justice when the president signed a bill authorizing $1.25 billion toward discrimination claims dating back to a 1998 class-action suit involving 13,000 Black farmers who successfully sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for unfairly denying them loans between 1983 and 1997, even as White farmers received assistance without incident.
President Obama is briefed on the events in Egypt by his national security team meeting in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011. Thousands of protesters in Egypt have thrown the country’s 30-year-old regime into tumult. The president responded by praising the spirit of the protestors, saying "the people of Egypt have rights that are universal. That includes the right to peaceful assembly and association, the right to free speech."
The Obamas mourned the killings in Tucson, Arizona which left five dead and 14 wounded, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords. President Obama later spoke at a memorial service for the victims at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus. The president's approval numbers shot up thanks to his response to the January shootings, with 78 percent of Americans favoring his reassuring message of unity and national healing.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and members of the national security team watch an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House in Washington on May 1, 2011. He later appeared on 60 Minutes and shared details about the daring helicopter raid that took place in Pakistan. "It was the longest 40 minutes of my life," he said.
On July 6, 2011, POTUS became the first Twitter President when he uses a laptop computer to send a tweet during his inaugural “Twitter Town Hall” in the East Room of the White House in Washington D.C.
By August 2011, President Obama's approval ratings had sunk to below 40 percent — an all-time low. According to a 2011 Gallup poll, 39 percent of Americans approved of his performance, while 54 percent disapproved. Concerns about the struggling economy and polarization along party lines were among the biggest concerns.
President Obama spoke about Hurricane Irene while vacationing in Chilmark, Mass. on Martha’s Vineyard. The 400 mile-wide hurricane is blamed for at least 19 deaths across eight states and knocking out power to more than four million according to CNN. "We are going to make sure we respond as quickly as possible," said POTUS at a news conference.
President Obama urged Congress to pass the American Jobs Act while speaking at Eastfield College in Mesquite, Texas. The $300 billon plan, said the president, would help create jobs and revive the economy. To date, the plan has not become law due to Republican opposition.
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcome Stevie Wonder to the stage during the dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC on October 16, 2011.
Libyan-Americans celebrated the death of former Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi in front of the White House October 20, 2011 in Washington, DC. President Obama would address the Libyan leader's death at a press conference, saying "one of the world's longest-serving dictators is no more. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted."
In March 2012, President Obama weighed in on the killing of Trayvon Martin by self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman. POTUS called the case a tragedy and encouraged "some soul searching" for the country. "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," he added. "I think [Trayvon's parents] are right to expect that all of us as Americans are going to take this with the seriousness it deserves, and we are going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."
President Obama endorsed the right of same-sex couples to marry in a televised interview with ABC News' Robin Roberts in May 2012. "I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married," the President told Roberts, becoming the first sitting commander in chief to openly support gay marriage.
Students hold up signs saying "Thank You President Obama" outside the White House shortly after Mr. Obama announced that the U.S. government will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children and have since led law-abiding lives.
Supporters celebrate after the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act on June 28, 2012 — a victory for President Obama.
President Obama's administration has been heavily criticized for its response to the September 11, 2012 attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. During an appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the President admitted his administration's response wasn't "optimal." "What happens during the course of a presidency, you know the government is a big operation at any given time, something screws up and you make sure you find out what's broken and you fix it," he said.