They don't call him Isane John McCain for nothing.
Palin was born Sarah Louise Heath in Sandpoint, Idaho, the daughter of Sarah Heath (née Sheeran), a school secretary, and Charles R. Heath, a science teacher and track coach. She has English, Irish, and German ancestry. Her family moved to Alaska when she was an infant. She and her father would sometimes wake at 3 a.m. to hunt moose before school, and the family regularly ran 5 km and 10 km races.
Palin attended Wasilla High School in Wasilla, Alaska, where she was the head of the school Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the point guard and captain of the school's basketball team. She helped the team win the Alaska small-school basketball championship in 1982, hitting a critical free throw in the last seconds of the game, despite having an ankle stress fracture at the time. She earned the nickname "Sarah Barracuda" because of her intense play, and was the leader of team prayer before games.
In 1984, Palin won the Miss Wasilla beauty contest, then finished second in the Miss Alaska pageant, which won her a college scholarship. In the Wasilla pageant, she played the flute and also won Miss Congeniality.
Palin holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Idaho, where she also minored in political science. She married Todd Palin, her boyfriend since high school, on August 29, 1988. She then briefly worked as a sports reporter for local Anchorage television stations while also working as a commercial fisherwoman with her husband.
Barack Hussein Obama II was born on August 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Obama, Sr., a Black Kenyan of Nyang’oma Kogelo, Siaya District, Kenya, and Ann Dunham, a White American from Wichita, Kansas. His parents met while attending the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where his father was a foreign student. They separated when he was two years old and later divorced. Obama's father returned to Kenya and saw him only once more before dying in an automobile accident in 1982. After her divorce, Dunham married Lolo Soetoro, and the family moved to Soetoro's home country of Indonesia in 1967, where Obama attended local schools in Jakarta until he was ten years old. He then returned to Honolulu to live with his maternal grandparents while attending Punahou School from the fifth grade in 1971 until his graduation from high school in 1979. Obama's mother returned to Hawaii in 1972 for several years and then back to Indonesia for her fieldwork. She died of ovarian cancer in 1995. As an adult Obama admitted that during high school he used cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol, which he described at the Saddleback Church Civil Forum on the Presidency as his greatest moral failure.
Following high school, Barack Obama moved to Los Angeles, where he studied at Occidental College for two years. He then transferred to Columbia University in New York City, where he majored in political science with a specialization in international relations. Obama graduated with a B.A. from Columbia in 1983, then worked for a year at the Business International Corporation and then at the New York Public Interest Research Group.
After four years in New York City, Obama moved to Chicago to work as a community organizer for three years from June 1985 to May 1988 as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organization originally comprising eight Catholic parishes in Greater Roseland (Roseland, West Pullman, and Riverdale) on Chicago's far South Side. During his three years as the DCP's director, its staff grew from 1 to 13 and its annual budget grew from $70,000 to $400,000, with accomplishments including helping set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants' rights organization in Altgeld Gardens. Obama also worked as a consultant and instructor for the Gamaliel Foundation, a community organizing institute. In mid-1988, he traveled for the first time to Europe for three weeks then Kenya for five weeks where he met many of his Kenyan relatives for the first time.
Obama entered Harvard Law School in late 1988 and at the end of his first year was selected as an editor of the Harvard Law Review based on his grades and a writing competition. In his second year he was elected president of the Law Review, a full-time volunteer position functioning as editor-in-chief and supervising the law review's staff of 80 editors. Obama's election in February 1990 as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review was widely reported and followed by several long, detailed profiles. He graduated with a Juris Doctor (J.D.) magna cum laude from Harvard in 1991 and returned to Chicago where he had worked as a summer associate at the law firms of Sidley & Austin in 1989 and Hopkins & Sutter in 1990.
The publicity from his election as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review led to a contract and advance to write a book about race relations. In an effort to recruit him to their faculty, the University of Chicago Law School provided Obama with a fellowship and an office to work on his book. He originally planned to finish the book in one year, but it took much longer as the book evolved into a personal memoir. In order to work without interruptions, Obama and his wife, Michelle, traveled to Bali where he wrote for several months. The manuscript was finally published as Dreams from My Father in mid-1995.
Obama directed Illinois Project Vote from April to October 1992, a voter registration drive with a staff of 10 and 700 volunteers that achieved its goal of registering 150,000 of 400,000 unregistered African Americans in the state, leading Crain's Chicago Business to name Obama to its 1993 list of "40 under Forty" powers to be.
Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for twelve years, as a Lecturer for four years (1992–1996), and as a Senior Lecturer for eight years (1996–2004).
In 1993 Obama joined Davis, Miner, Barnhill & Galland, a 12-attorney law firm specializing in civil rights litigation and neighborhood economic development, where he was an associate for three years from 1993 to 1996, then of counsel from 1996 to 2004, with his law license becoming inactive in 2002.
Obama was a founding member of the board of directors of Public Allies in 1992, resigning before his wife, Michelle, became the founding executive director of Public Allies Chicago in early 1993. He served on the board of directors of the Woods Fund of Chicago, which in 1985 had been the first foundation to fund Obama's DCP, from 1993–2002, and served on the board of directors of The Joyce Foundation from 1994–2002. Obama served on the board of directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995–2002, as founding president and chairman of the board of directors from 1995–1999. He also served on the board of directors of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, and the Lugenia Burns Hope Center.