On Nov. 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, winning more votes than any candidate in history. Obama is the first African American to have served as president. President Obama has a long history with Los Angeles, beginning with the years he attended Occidental College to numerous talk show appearances while in office. From Obama Highway to "The Obama Special," read on for Barack Obama's Los Angeles.
Located in Eagle Rock, Occidental College was founded in 1887 and is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast. President Barack Obama attended Oxy from 1979 to 1981 - two years that played a major role in determining his future. As a freshman from Honolulu, he lived in Room A103 in the Haines Hall annex. “It’s a wonderful, small liberal arts college,” President Obama said of Oxy. “The professors were diverse and inspiring. I ended up making some lifelong friendships there, and those first two years really helped me grow up.”
The future president made his first political speech at Oxy on Feb. 18, 1981 as part of a movement to persuade the Occidental Board of Trustees to divest the College of its investments in South Africa. Years later, when asked about his favorite college course, Obama named the politics classes he took with professor Roger Boesche. During a 2009 visit in the Oval Office, Obama introduced Boesche to his staff by saying, “Professor Boesche taught me everything I know about politics,” adding with a laugh, “But he gave a me a 'B' on a paper!”
Some of L.A.'s most-traveled boulevards are named for presidents, such as Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Lincoln. President Barack Obama was added to this illustrious list in June 2017, when the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the motion to rename 3.5 miles of Rodeo Road in South L.A. as Obama Boulevard. This became official in August 2018. Council President Herb J. Wesson Jr. introduced then-Sen. Obama at his first Los Angeles presidential campaign rally, which took place at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex on Rodeo Road in February 2007.
In December 2018, a stretch of the 134 Freeway between State Route 2 in Glendale and Interstate 210 in Pasadena was renamed "President Barack H. Obama Highway." The renaming came after the passage of SCR 8, authored by California State Senator Anthony J. Portantino and Congressman Jimmy Gomez. In an official statement, Sen. Portantino said, "The President has often mentioned his fond memories of living in Pasadena and attending Occidental College, so it was very appropriate to name the portion of the freeway he traveled after him."
In July 2014, President Obama had lunch at Canter's Deli on Fairfax. Joining him were four people who had written to him about their daily struggles. After he mingled with diners and posed for pictures, the president's visit quickly went viral on social media. It wasn't the first time that Canter's had welcomed a commander in chief - Presidents Kennedy and Nixon have also stopped by the famed deli.
In October 2014, President Obama was in Los Angeles for two fundraisers. He made an unscheduled stop at the West Pico location of Roscoe’s House of Chicken & Waffles, where he ordered the #9 Country Boy Combo - three wings with a choice of waffle, potato salad, or French fries. A few months later, Roscoe's honored the president by renaming the Country Boy Combo “The Obama Special.”
The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which tapes at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, welcomed President Obama in February 2016. DeGeneres praised Obama for “what you’ve done for the gay community.” The president in turn credited DeGeneres for changing hearts and minds: "I don't think anybody has been more influential than you on that," bringing the comedian to tears.
Generations of TV talk show hosts have gauged the pulse of the nation with their opening monologues, a comedy bit that Johnny Carson perfected on The Tonight Show. On March 19, 2009, The Tonight Show became the first late-night talk show in history to have the sitting President of the United States as a guest, when President Barack Obama visited with Jay Leno. He appeared several more times on The Tonight Show and became a regular on talk shows.
"Mean Tweets" is one of the most popular sketches on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which tapes in Hollywood. In October 2016, President Obama read a tweet by a certain @realDonaldTrump, who called him "the worst president in history." The president fired back a now-classic response to the delight of the studio audience.
Dubbed the “Black Greenwich Village” by filmmaker John Singleton, the historic neighborhood of Leimert Park is widely regarded as the cultural hub for African Americans in L.A. President Obama has visited Leimert Park twice, to sign his books at Eso Won Books, a neighborhood staple that specializes in African American titles and authors. The first time was in 1995, for his memoir, “Dreams From My Father.” The second time coincided with the release of his 2006 book, “The Audacity of Hope.” Eso Won has also hosted Bill Clinton, Maya Angelou, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison and Walter Mosley among many other authors.
During the 2012 presidential campaign, President Obama stayed at the Beverly Wilshire. Built in 1928, the historic Beverly Wilshire is known to millions of movie fans as the hotel where Julia Roberts stays in Pretty Woman. As part of its Four Seasons Extraordinary Experiences, the Beverly Wilshire created Pretty Woman for a Day, the ultimate room package that invites you to be the star of your own love story while recreating favorite moments from the film.