As Barack Obama’s tenure as president has ended, many will reminisce of the legacy of the nation’s first African-American president. Some will claim that his very first presidential accomplishment was his greatest one, as President Obama’s election to the oval office was a major step toward a post-racial America, a nation in which race, creed, and ethnicity do not play a role in determining the success of an individual. However, his election to presidency also awakened lingering racism in the United States: the Trump-led birther movement attacked the president’s citizenship, and many racist caricatures of the president were disseminated to the public. Like Donald Trump, Barack Obama’s candidacy sought to instill hope in the common man of America by promising sizeable policy changes from the previous administration. Besides their radically different political ideologies, what separated the two candidates the most was the nature of their hope-inspiring message. Obama’s “Yes we can” slogan unified and struck optimism into millions of Americans. In contrast, Trump’s equally effective “Make America great again” campaign slogan epitomized the frustration that many Trump supporters felt. However, Trump’s campaign message often had racially divisive undertones to which his supporters paid no heed. His ability to make controversial, and often schismatic remarks with impunity defied United States election history. Barack Obama, on the other hand, defied history by overcoming centuries old racial barriers.
While Obama’s historic campaign and candidacy will certainly be memorable, his eight years in office have significantly impacted the future of our nation. Atr face value, the forty-fourth president’s chief policy proposal, the Affordable Care Act, is a 906 page document filled with many complicated clauses and conditions. The true intention of the ACA, dubbed Obamacare by the president’s political adversaries, sought to grant health insurance to uninsured Americans by allocating federal money. It also intended to reform the then disorganized healthcare system. Essentially, Obamacare expanded on the previous universal healthcare plan by increasing the government’s role in providing health care; this involved expansions such as providing coverage of preexisting conditions and government-subsidized health care. Met with harsh criticism from the Republican Party, the Affordable Care Act struggled to pass. However, eight years in the making, Obamacare has provided health insurance to nearly 20 million previously uninsured Americans. For those who gained desperately needed health care during the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act is perhaps the president’s most significant impact on the country.
Barack Obama entered office with little foreign policy experience, facing a complex international climate. A few years into his presidency, Obama’s method of handling the rise of terrorism in the Middle East was where he received most of his scrutiny. Those who supported a more interventionist approach criticized him for being standoffish while those who supported a non-interventionist approach disparaged his use of drones. The most noteworthy foreign policy achievement during the Obama administration occurred during the president’s first term: On May 1, 2011, the United States Seal Team 6 successfully executed a covert mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden, the leader of global terrorist organization al-Qaeda. This assassination solidified the international mission to weaken the already struggling al-Qaeda. Withdrawing American troops from Iraq after over eight years of military occupation in the Middle East also marked a new era for American foreign policy in the Arab world. Lastly, the nuclear arms agreement in Iran, a deal that obstructed the development of nuclear arms in Iran in exchange for lifted embargos, proved the administration’s ability to negotiate. Although Obama focused most of his foreign policy energy in the Middle East, removing the decades long embargos on Cuba began a new age of diplomacy with Cuba. It also sent a message to the world that America is willing to cooperate with countries in spite of its historical grudges.
The legacy of the forty-fourth president will not be based solely on his campaign and policies. Obama’s ability to avoid scandals in his eight years in office was almost as remarkable as his comedic abilities. Ranging from one-lined quips to full-fledged roasts, no president can match Barack Obama’s performances at correspondents’ dinners. His roast of Donald Trump in which he mocked the current president for his birther claims was perhaps his most notable comedic performance. Although Barack Obama certainly has the skill to dish it out, he could absorb derision and disparagement better than most. He managed to refrain from retaliating to unjust criticism and racist allegation that occurred during his administration. The president instead was able to find comedy in the racist accusations about his origins and religion. Instead of responding to harsh criticism with irrational, indignant tweets and press conferences, Obama honorably turned the other cheek.
Regardless of your opinions of Barack Obama’s leadership abilities in the oval office, his admirable character will go down in history. His temperament, which did not limit his strong yearning for forward progress, will set an example for generations of children and aspiring politicians. His passion for the country was not conveyed through overt, Johnson-esque fervor. Instead, he believed that progress could be made through compromises, which is truly honorable.