The Turning Point
Following graduation, Obama accepted two jobs, one as a civil rights attorney, and one teaching constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. While working as a summer associate at a law firm, he met a sharp and beautiful lawyer named Michelle Robinson. They began dating, and in 1992, the couple married. In 1997, Obama decided to turn his sights to elective politics and ran for Illinois State Senate. He won. Shortly after, in 1998, the couple had their first daughter, Malia.
Obama won a second race for state senate, but that wasn't enough to satisfy his ambition. He decided to enter the race for the House of Representatives, despite the fact that the odds were stacked against him. The incumbent he was running against was popular, and, even worse, his wife was not fully on board with the plan. Michelle wanted him to be able to spend more time at home with his growing family, but Obama decided to run anyway. He lost by 30 points, which caused him to stop and take a hard look at his life, and he didn't like what he saw. He felt that his arrogance had cost him politically, and he wasn't there for his family the way he wanted to be.
However, rather than reject politics entirely, Obama decided to try a different tactic. He was still passionate about uniting Americans across political, racial, and socioeconomic backgrounds, but he didn't believe he could achieve these goals on a local level. So he decided to run for Senate.
This time, he promised his wife that if he lost the race, he would leave politics for good. She agreed, and with her support, Obama entered the race. His first stroke of good luck was hiring a man named David Axelrod. A former journalist, Axelrod had shifted careers to become a political media consultant, and he was just what Obama needed to help him adjust his messaging. Axelrod focused on improving Obama's delivery and helped generate some early buzz for Obama online. Even before his candidacy was officially announced, a speech Obama gave opposing the Iraq War went viral on MySpace and other online blogs. His young campaign staffers helped him capitalize on this momentum and turn the buzz into real-life donations and volunteers.
Obama and his campaign staff realized that his speeches had real power. He was able to effectively reach Americans, address their problems, and provide real hope for the future. Just before the election, he was offered the opportunity to give the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Obama worked hard on the speech, making nonstop notes on legal pads and thinking long and hard about the kind of lessons he'd been taught growing up and how he wanted to translate them to the country. Finally, he remembered a saying his pastor back in Chicago used to say: “the audacity of hope.” The speech was a turning point in his career. He received national attention, and it was the last time he would walk into a room and be unrecognized. He also won his election by a landslide.