As we say our final goodbyes to the dumpster fire of a year that was 2016, we also say a final goodbye to our (mostly) beloved 44th president, Barack Obama.
In his eight years in office, President Obama has managed to not only implement universal healthcare, enforce marriage equality and bring America back from a crippling economic recession, but has also carried himself with a notable amount of charisma and grace that made him relatable and offered the American people a sense of warmth they might not have found in previous presidents.
Obama made history in 2008’s election by becoming America’s first African-American president. For the first time, young black voters edged out white voters by more than 5 percent and seemed to close the racial voting gap left by the 2004 presidential election.
Not only did he have a way with voter turnout, but Obama also had a way with words that instilled confidence in the future of his America, and believed in a country united by grace and progressivism.
For those that have experienced an Obama presidency for the majority of their young lives, it could be said that he shaped the beliefs of young people into those of progression and open-mindedness.
The impact he made on the lives of many, including those who didn’t think that it was possible for them to observe a black president in office during their lifetime, is irreplaceable. Obama is an icon in more than one way.
It’s with that in mind that we give a bittersweet goodbye to President Barack Obama.
When Obama entered office in 2008, he was met with an unstable economy and a job market that had seen better days. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in January 2009 when he was inaugurated the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent. That rate steadily decreased and he ended 2016 with a 4.7 percent rate, the lowest in almost 10 years.
He took an economically drained America and re-established employment rates by adding more than 13 million jobs, as compared with the 5.7 million George W. Bush had added before the economic crash.
In addition to re-establishing lowered unemployment rates, he took on the role of prioritizing social issues like marriage equality and reproductive rights. One of his last acts as a president came after the election of Donald Trump. Obama moved to protect Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.
By protecting Planned Parenthood’s federal funding, he upholds the right for women to receive assistance, ranging from basic birth control to cancer screenings.
In June of 2015, with the help of a ruling by the Supreme Court, marriage equality became the law of the land. This ruling resolved many fears in the LGBT community and beyond, establishing a national mandate that required LGBT marriages to be recognized as legal.
While Obama could be noted as progressive and well-spoken, there were less than stellar moments in both of his terms.
Perhaps the one thing that will stain his legacy is his handling of foreign policy.
It seems as though the president’s weakness lay in how he handled the situation in Syria. Critics say that his passive and prudent approach was less than effective, but history may eventually prove that he handled the situation as well as anyone could have.
When the ceasefire was called, the president was not the catalyst. Critics have mentioned that his presidency focused on domestic issues, and while he managed to pull America out of a crippling recession, he also overlooked global issues plaguing less-than-fortunate nations.
Obama will go down in history as the “millennial president.” His powerful speeches and even his pop culture presence will help him be fondly remembered by many.
All in all, it’s largely believed that Obama’s presidency will go down in history as one full of progress, open-mindedness and grace. Many anticipate the President-elect Trump with hesitation and bated breath, knowing that the Obama legacy will be hard to duplicate.