When President Obama was first sworn in eight years ago, I watched with mixed feelings. I fully felt and shared the feelings and emotions of the crowd attending in feeling that history had reached a watershed moment, that a group whose members had been despised and put down had one of their own in the most powerful office of the land. I fully supported what Obama the candidate had said and the positions he took. And he spoke inspiringly well. But, being the first black president of the United States put him under a huge burden, under the intense scrutiny of all. I worried about how this man, Barak Hussein Obama, would do. Could he live up to this moment?
Many of those asking this question along with me would be more likely to hold him to a much higher standard and more quickly and easily criticize him than they would a white person due to unconscious bias. Some of us, too many no matter their numbers, looked at him with hatred due to openly held and argued racism. And then there were those whose ideology and political beliefs would not allow them to support President Obama, no matter how well he would do the job.
Added to this was that Obama was taking over a country suffering under the worst recession since the Great Depression. A country that was bleeding from wars in the Middle East and in whom most of the world had little respect. Given these challenges, the chances of failure were great, the burden of Presidency even heavier. As the years passed though, President Barack Hussein Obama proved more than equal to these challenges and these burdens.
Through all these last eight years President Obama has presided with grace, dignity and poise. While some may blow this off as just style over substance, the style is important. It sets the tone of our nation. It sets the impressions that those outside of the US see. It can open or close doors to communication and understanding.
However, President Obama was much more than just style. His presidency was one of substance too. These are just a few of the many accomplishments of his administration.
He managed our economy so that it came out of the recession more quickly and in better shape than almost any other industrial country in the world. Yes, it was not perfect, but it was well done, and the best that could be done. And it is still improving even at the end of his eight years: unemployment down, pay checks rising, the stock market more than doubling, and record number of months with increased job creation.
In addition, he pushed for and signed into law stronger financial regulations that would help prevent another great recession such as the one he guided us out of; the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
President Obama also managed to pass massive healthcare reform, something that many presidents, both Republican and Democrat, had tried to do, and failed. It is not perfect and it has flaws. But, it is good, it is a step in the right direction, and it has provided millions and millions of Americans needed health care. Lives have been saved; lives have been improved and made better, because of the Affordable Care Act. It forms and could, if allowed, continue to form the basis of something much better.
President Obama made great strides towards providing equal rights towards gays. Before President Obama gays had to serve secretly in the military and could not wed. Now, they can proudly serve the US as themselves. Now, they can wed the person they love, and openly love that person.
He improved our international standing through the use of diplomacy and new policies. He ended the Iraq war and reduced our presence in Afghanistan. He denounced and prohibited the use of torture. He managed a new nuclear deal with Russia to reduce our nuclear arsenal. He found and killed bin Laden. He increased sanctions on Iran that led to a treaty on Iran’s nuclear program.
His administration has expanded opportunities for women in our country.
He has brought much needed light and discussion to racial issues still in existence in our country, including working to find ways to improve policing.
In regards to the environment, his administration not only helped craft and signed the Climate agreement in Paris, but has worked to reduce our carbon emissions, increase alternative energy use, improved our water and land usage, and increased our national parks.
President Obama has had no scandals in his administration or within his family – a first for a Presidential administration and family in a long, long time.
As I said, this is only a partial and incomplete listing of his accomplishments.
President Obama, like all Presidents, was not able to achieve all that he wished. However, politics is the art of the possible. Perfection, besides being beyond human ability, is also not possible in politics with so many differing, discordant, and conflicting views on what should and should not be done.
In regards to immigration, he was unable to get Congress to pass immigration reform. But, he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals act.
In regards to Guantanamo, he was unable to close it. But, he was able to reduce its population from a peak of 700 prisoners to around 40 when he leaves office.
Like any President, he has had his failures. Some of them large. He has had policies and practices that I disagreed with, sometimes strongly.
However, through all of this he has handled successes and failures, progress and setbacks, with a calm dignity. In addition he has handled the relentless insults and slanders and abuse directed at him with humor and aplomb, from the birther nonsense, to being called a liar by a Congressman during Obama’s speech to Congress, to portrayals of his wife as an ape and worse.
In fact, it was not only President Obama who has exhibited class and dignity, and an ability to communicate with Americans, but his whole family: Michelle, Sasha, and Malia. They have been one of the most positive family models in the White House in a long time.
JFK’s presidency has often been referred to as Camelot, from an interview with Jacqueline Kennedy in which she stated that “There will be great presidents again. But there will never be another Camelot.” This was in reference to the musical Camelot, which had these lines at the end, as King Arthur goes out to fight his final battle, his kingdom in rack and ruin.
While President Obama’s presidency is far from lying in rack and ruin, I think the line that inspired this is appropriate.
“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot.”
It is not only his accomplishments, but his manner, his demeanor and that of his family that will last and continue to influence us for years to come.
History consists of a great many moments, some shining, some dark and ugly. President Barack Hussein Obama’s election and time as our President was one of those shining moments.