When Senator Barack Hussein Obama decided to run for the highest office in the land it was on the promise of hope. Now, as he prepares to walk out of office this month I look back over the past eight years of an Obama presidency asking how we will view his legacy.
Several things to consider as I look in the rear view mirror at the Obama era:
First, as the first black president he faced hurdles that none of his predecessors faced. From the indignities of Joe “you lie” Wilson, the congressman from South Carolina’s second district, to the “Birther Movement” led by the person who will succeed him in office, Donald Trump, no one has ever faced the disrespect that this president has.
Second, after his party lost both the house and senate during his 8 year run, he faced a Republican congress that was determined not to work with him throughout most of his presidency.
And lastly, you cannot view his presidency without including his wife, Michelle, who was a powerhouse in her own right. They approached the presidency as a team, not in the sense of Bill and Hillary Clinton, where she was involved in policy in some form or fashion. Michelle added a familiarity to the White House that put everyone at ease. It was as if she were YOUR sister, mother, or best friend whenever you encountered her personally or viewed her through the media like most of the world. She was the yin to his yang and kept the president centered throughout his years in office.
“Through it all they handled it with class and dignity.”
When I look at the ledger balance of his eight years in office he had many wins that history can point to. Let’s take a look at a few.
- The Affordable Care Act or Obamacare is considered to be his greatest domestic achievement
- He jump started the economy during the worst recession since the Great Depression In the wake of the global recession, Obama signed the Recovery Act, which cut taxes and saved millions of jobs
- He helped stimulate the auto industry after the financial crisis. Chrysler and GM have created hundreds of thousands jobs since then
- He authorized the raid that successfully killed Osama Bin Laden
- Obama and Raul Castro reversed over 60 years of tension between the U.S. and Cuba by restoring diplomatic ties
- He repealed ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. By reversing the law, LGBT members of the armed forces no longer have to hide who they are
- He passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which holds Wall Street accountable in the event of another financial crisis
- President Obama was one of the key leaders that fought for the Paris Agreement. It created a comprehensive framework to reduce global climate change
- He urged states in 2013 to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Many states along with Washington, D.C. have responded
These will be remembered by many as some of the greatest accomplishments of the last 50 years.
Where there missteps and failures? Of course. Every presidency experiences them and this president was no exception. A few that stand out…
- He broke his promise to close Guantanamo Bay
- Ineffective foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East, ISIS, Russia, Israel, etc.
- Supported a military drone program that killed many innocent civilians in foreign countries
- Slow to react to the South Dakota oil pipeline crisis
- Belief, perceived or real, that he did not do enough to help struggling Black, Hispanic, and low-income communities
On balance, I believe that he will be remembered as one of the more successful presidents in recent U.S. history.
What does the future have in store for President Obama? I’m not sure but I think he will continue building on his legacy after he leaves office, not unlike former president Jimmy Carter. According to an August 4th, Money Magazine article, Barack Obama’s Net Worth on His 55th Birthday, he is worth an estimated 12.5 million dollars. I doubt he’ll be hurting financially after vacating the oval office. I look for him to take some time to recuperate from an extremely strenuous ten year run by spending more time with his family and closest friends. After that, I envision him hitting the speaking circuit, writing a few books, and beginning serious work with his foundations. Eventually, he’ll start to work on impacting lives globally without the constraints of being in office.
How will the Obama Legacy be remembered? Well, I guess that depends on who you ask. If you’ve been a fan throughout then I imagine you will remember it fondly. If you fall into the “Anybody but Obama” camp then perhaps you may view his presidency as a failure. Whichever side we fall on I believe that we can all say that it will remembered as a presidential legacy for the ages.
I bid you a fond adieu, Mr. President.
Don E. Lang, Jr.