By Martha Ugwu
With the 2016 Presidential election weighing heavy on the minds of millions of Americans, it seems that there is little time these days to actually pause and reflect on the legacy of President Barack Obama. As the leader of our country for eight years, President Obama has made quite an impact over the over course of his presidency, whether it be for better or for worse. America is in a much different place now than it was in 2008 and a lot of that has to do with the decisions and policies that were implemented by the Obama Administration. As a country that has come so far in almost in a decade, what are the biggest takeaways that we as citizens will remember as we look towards the future? What will the historical narrative have to say about this particular time period in America? Most importantly, how will Barack Obama’s contributions as President be remembered? Will the verdict on his presidency be positive or negative? Only time will tell.
Although it seems like a difficult task to do, dissecting the range and scope of Obama’s presidency is necessary. In the context of modern history, he is one of the most prominent figures living today and yet, many people do not fully understand the substance of his political stature. Undoubtedly, his defining quality in most people’s minds will always be the fact that he is the first African-American president in this nation’s history. However, there is so much more to his legacy than just being known as the first non-white president.
Throughout his campaign in 2008, Obama captured the attention of millions of Americans with his “Yes We Can” slogan and optimistic messages of hope and change. This came at very crucial time in America, when the country was facing the threats of the Great Recession and the War in Iraq, among other problems. America was in dire need of change and Obama was willing to take on that responsibility. In his speech that he delivered at the 2008 Democratic National Convention, Obama promised to bring innovation to major issues like economics, health care, foreign policy, education, energy and climate change. The public perception of Obama began to work in his favor, inspiring many people to believe that he might just be the candidate to shake up the status quo and lead the country in a more progressive direction.
Fortunately, the president has kept his word on a lot of his promises. Despite facing many obstacles in his path, particularly Republican opponents a majority of the time, Obama still led the charge towards major reform of the country’s woes. His most notable act of reform came in the form of Obamacare, which refers to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010. The law would cover millions of uninsured Americans and include measures to cut the rising costs of health care. The implementation of this groundbreaking policy was a huge leap towards achieving the dream of universal health care in the United States, a dream that five former presidents failed to achieve.
Obama’s proactive approach to reform extends much further, which can be seen through his other accomplishments. The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped spur economic growth and lower unemployment rates. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act introduced new regulation in the way large banks operated following the Great Recession. The bailout of American automakers General Motors and Chrysler provided relief to the ailing auto industry in 2009.
The War in Iraq came to an end when the order was made for all U.S. military forces to leave the country in 2010. The Federal Student Loan Program was remodeled so that students would receive loans directly from the government, effectively excluding banks in the process and extending Pell Grant spending. The list goes on and on, proving that the Obama Administration did not just rebuild America during a time of crisis, but also added the building blocks for improvement in the future.
After carefully analyzing Obama’s political résumé from the past eight years, one important question remains unanswered: what type of presidency did Obama have and how will it be remembered? In an interview done with New York Magazine, historian Stephen Walt provides some insight on the type of leader Obama was during his presidency. “As president, he showed that effective governing requires careful deliberation, discipline, and the willingness to make hard and imperfect decisions, and he let us all watch him do just that. Even when one disagreed with his choices, one knew that his acts were never impulsive or cavalier. In short, the country was in good hands, and future historians will give him full marks for that.” Walt said. In summary, Obama’s humble and transparent demeanor as President, as well as his restorative measures as the head of the executive branch, will be the details that historians will highlight about his legacy. Hopefully, the citizens of the United States will grow to remember Barack Obama beyond just his skin color, but also for his contributions to the welfare and posterity of this country.