Freethought of the Day

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There are 2 entries for this date: Barack Hussein Obama Sr. and Roger Ebert
Barack Hussein Obama Sr.

Barack Hussein Obama Sr.

On this date in 1936, Barack Hussein Obama Sr., father of future president Barack Obama II, was born near Kendu Bay, Kenya, then a British colony. Obama studied at the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, earning a bachelor’s in economics in 1962. He'd met Ann Dunham on campus in 1960 and they married the next year after she became pregnant. President Obama was born to Dunham and Obama Sr. on Aug. 4, 1961, at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu.

Obama Sr. first married in 1954 and had two children with his wife Kezia. President Obama has noted that his father was mostly absent from his childhood since his parents divorced when he was 2.

Obama earned a master’s in economics in 1965 from Harvard University. He returned to Kenya and ultimately became a senior economist in the Kenyan Ministry of Finance. He last saw Barack Obama II when he was 10. Altogether he had four wives and eight children.

The last years of  his life were markedly difficult after he lost his government position due to conflicts with President Jomo Kenyatta. He'd lost both legs in an auto accident and died in another auto accident in Kenya at age 46. D. 1982.

“ [A]lthough my father had been raised a Muslim, by the time he met my mother he was a confirmed atheist, thinking religion to be so much superstition.”

—President Barack Obama, Time magazine (Oct. 16, 2006)

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

© Freedom From Religion Foundation. All rights reserved.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

On this date in 1942, film critic Roger Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois. Ebert became an icon in Chicago and around the world as a film critic whose reviews were honest, thoughtful and genuine. He attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and graduated in 1964 with a degree in journalism. He was the editor of the university's newspaper, the Daily Illini, and wrote his first movie reviews there.

Ebert moved to Chicago after graduation and began covering stories for the city editor of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1966. He became the newspaper's movie critic in 1967, a position he held until his death over 40 years later. His work became syndicated in over 200 publications.

In 1975 he started a TV show with Gene Siskel, his counterpart at the Chicago Tribune. They became known for reviewing movies with either a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Ebert wrote many books, including several collections of movie reviews, a cookbook of recipes made with a rice cooker and a memoir. Ebert received honorary degrees from the American Film Institute and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

He won a Pulitzer Prize in Criticism in 1975, the first film critic to do so. He was also the first film critic with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2002 he was diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid and salivary glands and underwent several surgeries which removed part of his jaw and left him unable to speak. He continued to review movies throughout his illness and worked until shortly before his death.

Ebert, who grew up Catholic, chose not to define his religious beliefs, saying he is not an atheist and not a believer. He clarified his religious views in a blog post called "How I believe in God." He said, "I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist — which I am. If I were to say I don't believe God exists, that wouldn't mean I believe God doesn't exist. Nor does it mean I don't know, which implies that I could know."

Ebert married Chaz Hammelsmith, an attorney, in 1992, and was with her until his death. D. 2013.

“I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. What I am grateful for is the gift of intelligence, and for life, love, wonder, and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting.”

—Ebert, blog post titled “Go Gentle into That Good Night” (May 2, 2009)

Compiled by Sarah Eucalano; photo by s_bukley /

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