President Barack Obama, a Poet? - National Council of Teachers of English
Back to Blog
President Obama reading

President Barack Obama, a Poet?

Americans made history in 2008 by electing Barack Obama as the nation’s first Black U.S. president. In addition to his work as a community organizer and Senator, Obama also wrote two books, Dreams from My Father and The Audacity of Hope, before being elected president. Did you know Barack Obama also wrote poetry?

When President Obama was a 19-year-old student at Occidental College, he published two poems in the spring 1982 issue of Feast, the school’s literary magazine. The first poem, “Pop“, recounts a moment between a young Obama and his grandfather, Stanley Dunham. His second poem, “Underground“, reads differently and has been compared to the style of D. H. Lawrence. Read more in this article, “Obama, Poet.”

The Academy of American Poets shared a post on the last day of the Obama presidency, “A Farewell to President Obama and a Presidency of Poetry.” They share poetry highlights from Barack Obama’s eight years as president.

At a White House event in 2015, President Obama spoke about poetry: “Poetry matters. Poetry, like all art, gives shape and texture and depth of meaning to our lives. It helps us know the world. It helps us understand ourselves. It helps us understand others, their struggles, their joys, the ways that they see the world. It helps us connect…”

“I think it’s fair to say that if we didn’t have poetry that this would be a pretty barren world. In fact, it’s not clear that we would survive without poetry.”

As President Barack Obama celebrates his birthday this week, take some time to celebrate with poetry!


Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, the staff, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.