Last year was a quite turbulent year in terms of politics locally and internationally. Outside of Donald Trump’s victory in the United States and Brexit in the United Kingdom, this Friday, America will be saying goodbye to Barack Obama. His presidency was definitely a historic one, not only because he was the first non-white president of the United States, but because of all the events and affairs that transpired throughout it.
Obama ran on a platform of hope and change, although his intention to promote social inclusion and equality was manifested early on during his governance, we are still struggling in that area. He managed to appoint the first justice of Hispanic heritage to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, and passed The Lilly Fedbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which aimed to reduce wage and workplace inequality between men and women. Additionally, he created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows certain undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive deferred action from deportation.
His administration also helped the Unites States move towards a universal healthcare model by implementing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. The program initially sought to expand healthcare access, but recent increases in premiums and a lack of insurance options have cast serious concerns about its effectiveness.
He managed to legalize same-sex marriages and attempted to improve relations with the Cuban government. Furthermore, he managed to drop unemployment to historically low rates, even though most of the jobs created were temporary or part-time positions.
While he had a successful eight-year run in office, there are also some unfavorable facts that should be taken into consideration when examining his presidency. He became a symbol of partisanship, causing division not only in congress, but among Americans. Poverty rates dramatically increased during his presidency, with 6 million plus people in poverty now than before he took office. And most importantly, his policies in the Middle East contributed to the political vacuum that gave the Islamic State the chance to build its roots and organize.
As any other president there are promises he made that were not fully completed. Even though he has begun the process of releasing people from prisons for minor non-violent criminal acts, his promise to reform the American jail system still seems unfulfilled. Other promises that weren’t fully carried out are the closing of Guantanamo Bay and the passing of comprehensive gun-control laws.
There have also been a handful of controversial measures under his administration such as deporting a record number of undocumented immigrants, ending the Wet Foot, Dry Foot policy, and issuing executive orders that were met with strong opposition.
Obama’s presidency, while obviously having its political highs and lows, was also very captivating and even refreshing in certain aspects. His charisma was ever present and his reach to younger demographics is almost unprecedented. He’s created an online presence for himself, took part in sketches on SNL and Funny or Die, and has been known for his recurring use of humor in speeches and public appearances.
Obama’s legacy will also hold a very special place for first lady Michelle, who became one of the most admired women in America through her constant work with young girls and her dedication to improving public health.
Obama will leave a mark on the history of America forever, for good or bad. The world saw his election as a step towards social equality and we hope we can achieve that.
By Leah Symmone