Note: This interview appeared in the November 2004 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.
The man whose name means "blessed" in Arabic is the son of a Kenyan father, Barack Obama Sr., and a white mother, Ann Dunham, from Kansas. The two met as college students in Hawaii in 1959 (Barack Sr. was the first African to enroll at the University of Hawaii), and two years later, when Ann was just 19, their child was born. At the time, miscegenation was still a crime in many states, and it was also unwelcome in Kenya. Under that pressure, Barack Sr. left the marriage when his son was just 2 years old and went to Harvard to pursue a PhD. Later, after he had returned to Kenya to work as an economist, Ann married an Indonesian man, and when Barack was 6, the family moved to a town outside Jakarta, where Maya, Barack's sister, was born. After four years, the family returned to Hawaii and Barack began corresponding with his father and trying to understand his African heritage. His father's death in a traffic accident in Nairobi in 1982 prompted Barack to travel to Kenya and meet the rest of his family for the first time.
Following his graduation from Columbia University, Barack attended Harvard Law School and became the first African-American president of its law review. In 1992 he married Michelle Robinson, also a Harvard-educated lawyer. The couple has two daughters: Malia, 6, and Sasha, 3.
Barack's autobiography, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, was published in 1995, when he was 33. The following year, he won a seat in the Illinois state senate, representing Chicago's poverty-stricken South Side. Still, Obama wasn't exactly a household name when he stepped into the race for the U.S. Senate last year. But then he won the primary with 53 percent of the vote and captured the attention of John Kerry, which landed him on the world stage for one of the most extraordinary speeches I've ever heard.
Start reading Oprah's interview with Barack Obama