Obama entered Harvard Law School in 1988. After his first year, he worked at a summer internship in Chicago, where he met his wife, Michelle Robinson, his mentor and lawyer at Sidley and Austin.
"We just clicked," Michelle Obama said. The couple married on Oct. 3, 1992.
In February 1990, Obama was elected the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, and he began to receive a lot of media attention. He graduated from Harvard magna cum laude in 1991.
Beginnings of Political Career
After law school, Obama returned to Chicago to practice as a civil rights lawyer, joining the firm of Miner, Barnhill & Galland. He also lectured at the University of Chicago Law School.
Obama became director of Illinois Project Vote in 1992 and helped organize and register about 100,000 new voters during Bill Clinton's presidential campaign, according to the A&E video.
His success in the project placed him on Crain's Chicago Business Top 40, Under 40 Outstanding Young Leaders in Chicago that year.
Obama's mother passed away in 1995 after losing her battle against ovarian cancer. Also that year, Obama's autobiography, "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," was published. At the time, it received mediocre reviews and went quickly out of print. However, he later won a Grammy for the audio version of the book.
Ultimately, Obama's advocacy work led him to run for the Illinois State Senate as a Democrat, and he was elected in 1996 from the South Side neighborhood of Hyde Park.
In 1998, Michelle and Barack had their first child, Malia Ann. Their second daughter, Natasha, was born in 2001.
By 1999, Obama's success and hard work had established him as a politician with charisma and drive, according to the A&E video.
However, Obama had a political misstep when he was running against incumbent Bobby Rush for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Important gun control legislation was going to be voted on in the state Senate, and a close vote was foreseen. Although Obama supported the bill, he was in Hawaii and decided to stay with his ill daughter instead of returning when the bill was put on the floor.
Without Obama's vote, the bill did not pass, and Rush used Obama's absence against him in his own campaign, saying, "there was no excuse for missing a pivotal vote."
Obama lost the election to Rush but returned to the state Senate and passed 27 pieces of legislation over the next four years.
In 2003, Obama entered the race for the U.S. Senate. He won the 2004 Illinois primary after his main opposing candidate Jack Ryan dropped out because of exposed scandals.
Obama made the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. This defining moment in his career made him one of the United States' premier black leaders, said Mendell.
On Nov. 2, 2004, Obama became the fifth black senator in the U.S. Senate, at the age of 43.
Once in office, Obama was the first to raise the threat of avian flu on the Senate floor, speak out for victims of Hurricane Katrina and push for alternative-energy development and improved veterans' benefits.
He also worked with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., to eliminate gifts of travel on corporate jets by lobbyists to members of Congress.
In December 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security and Democracy Promotion Act of 2006, marking the first enactment of federal legislation primarily sponsored by Obama.
As a U.S. senator, Obama held assignments on various committees, including Foreign Relations, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and Veterans' Affairs.
On June 3, 2008, Obama captured the delegates necessary to become the first black nominee for president of the United States.
On his website, Obama said: "I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington ... I'm asking you to believe in yours."