In the years to follow, history books will be very kind to President Barack Obama. The 44th President brought to the Oval Office an intellectualism seldom demonstrated in modern national politics. He will be remembered as one of a handful of United States Presidents considered among the very best
Obama’s skilled oration, talent for consensus building among colleagues in and out of the Beltway, ability to foster relationships and collaboration with world leaders, and his steady-handed temperament coupled with an unwavering message of hope, all demonstrate the statesman like stature of this great legal scholar of constitutional law.
President Barak Obama has also always carried himself publicly as nothing short of a true gentleman--a hugely important attribute of any man by any measure. The integrity and gentlemanly demeanor displayed by President Obama throughout the course of his two terms in the White House is something to which any kid, or any adult, would be wise to aspire, and in that, the President served as a role model to the world, as it should be.
This of course all contrasts miserably with the president elect who ran a campaign devoid of integrity and lack of gentlemanly behavior; full of lies, attacks, bullying, racist and sexist remarks, and a candid admission of how he sexually assaults women--by popping a couple of Tic Tacs before forcing kisses on them, and by grabbing them by their genitals. The lack of basic decency, of second grade ethics, had the nation’s head spinning.
As the second term of President Obama draws to a close, we should be celebrating our national gains and preparing to further build upon the grand foundation which the President has laid down over the course of the last eight extraordinary years. Instead, as a result of the unprecedented events on November 8, the majority of Americans are now bracing hard against the raging winds of intolerance and hard line fear-mongering blowing in from the Alt Right.
Make no mistake, it will be a hard and long fought upcoming four years for those of us seeking to secure social justice and civil rights for all Americans. The president elect has done an excellent job selecting advisors and filling cabinet positions to assure the trappings of justice for ourselves and our posterity are in clear and present danger. There has been and will continue to be plenty of time to look forward, to take on dangerous radical right policies head on and push an agenda of tolerance and sensibility. Indeed, it will be necessary and urgent.
As one remarkable year ends, and another begins, let us take a moment away from the struggle to come, and take a look back. President Obama, our absolute best president in recent history, left us with more than his legacy. He left us with a blueprint, some of the highlights of which will be illustrated below. It is horrifyingly certain the president elect has every intention to shred almost every aspect of said blueprint, and that, dear reader, is why it is so very important we remain familiar with the achievements of President Obama, so we can advocate on behalf of these progressive solutions to our problems at a time when our lawmakers are pushing back against common sense, common decency, moderation, and tolerance.
In no particular order, let us take a look at a smattering of President Obama’s crowing achievements.
NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER
In 2009 the Norwegian Nobel Committee conferred upon President Obama the Nobel Prize for Peace for his work leading to the decrease of nuclear weapons worldwide, while simultaneously improving human rights across the globe leading to a safer, more socially responsible and environmentally friendly world.
An excerpt from the Norwegian Nobel Committee praises the President for his global peace initiatives: “ The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened. Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future.”
CAPTAINED THE US OUT OF THE GREAT RECESSION
President Obama inherited the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and responded with a stimulus plan which was swift and effective. In the last six years of the President’s tenure in the Oval Office, over 14 million private sector jobs were created by the stimulus. In fact, when Mitt Romney ran against and lost to then first-term President Obama in 2012, he promised America the Romney economic plan would reduce unemployment down to 6% by the end of his term. Romney lost, and now, closing out the second of Obama’s terms, unemployment sits at 5%, significantly better than the promise of the republican Romney, founder of Bain Capital. If there is one negative note to be found in our economy currently, its the sluggish nature of wages themselves. Unemployment is way down, but wages have not risen sharply. The movement was in the right direction, and strong, and a Clinton Administration could have furthered the work priming the conditions for wages to rise. Its important to note the republican dominated senate blocked Obama countless times on important legislation designed to stimulate wages via investments in green technologies which are high tech and high pay jobs. The GOP also blocked initiatives to raise the national minimum wage, while at the same time favoring tax breaks targeting the upper ten percent of wage earners in the United States.
The President made good on his promise from the campaign trail in 2008 to bring legislation allowing universal health care for any citizen in need of coverage. Millions of Americans are now fully insured, and are so despite pre existing conditions, which, due to out of reach prices of privatized insurance, would have excluded millions from medical care coverage, and the fallout of that would have been overall greater for the nation. The Affordable Care Act has been especially helpful providing coverage for millions of women, babies and young children. Not without some flaws, the Affordable Care Act is in need of some fine tuning. That it was landmark legislation, however, is unchallenged, and the care it has afforded millions who would have gone (maybe broke) without insurance the opportunity for good coverage at reasonable cost. The President Elect and every other republican candidate for president promised to “repeal and replace Obamacare”. Doing so would be foolhardy and shortsighted, not to mention heartless. The President Elect and his henchmen would be better served by tweaking the system mildly and shoring up any weak areas... but to throw the baby out with the bathwater is just bad policy.
MADE FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE POLICY
Barack Obama’s work securing newly implemented automobile efficiency regulations has led the industry to vehicles which burn less fuel and lowers harmful emissions. Similarly, Obama stimulated new regulations regarding power plant emissions. Output from stacks are now typically scrubbed internally or reduced by volume, the result being an overall decrease in carbon and other atmosphere destroying gasses. Despite initial republican push back, both of these changes are generally lauded as progressive and proactive.
The United States’ participation in the Paris Agreement, signed by President Obama, links our nation to most of the world in effort to reduce bulk emissions across the globe. Signed by more than two hundred nations, the Paris Agreement is a landmark accord, entered into agreement by almost every nation on the face of the earth. Many environmentalists and climatologists believe the Paris Agreement is not strong enough, but certainly agree it is an aggressive start to addressing a problem which is out of control already, and threatens the next generation and all to follow in an immediate and profound way.
It is worthy of note the republicans fought Obama tooth and nail on the U.S. entering into the Paris Agreement. The president elect has threatened to pull out of the Agreement. He has also gone on record as stating climate change, otherwise known as global warming, is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese. President Obama embraced the science surrounding climate change, and agreed upon by the sweeping majority within the scientific community, and moved boldly in a collaborative effort with almost every nation on earth to take a smart step towards slowing the human caused heating of the globe.
ENDED THE WAR IN IRAQ
Campaigning in 2008, President Obama promised to bring an end to Bush’s catastrophic war in Iraq, and bring Americans home. He was quite successful on that point, and most now view initiating the war in Iraq to have been a grave mistake. The president elect famously supported the Iraq War. Equally as famously, during the 2016 campaign in effort to distance himself from previously failed policy, the president elect lied stating he had been against the war. Regardless, it was President Obama who inherited the republican’s war, and who was able to turn it around and bring it to a close within a reasonable time period.
Anytime a ruling power is removed from a foreign government a power vacuum ensues, and it creates a dilemma for the leadership responsible for overthrowing the ruling party. The dilemma is whether it best to leave the nation at the end of the military action, or to stay and nation-build. Republicans would have fought the president had he selected to stay behind. Nation building means commitment of personnel and money for years and often decades. As a result of leaving Iraq, critics claim, obama was responsible for the vacuum allowing fringe terrorist groups, such as ISIS, to emerge. On this point it is important to remember it was George W. Bush and the republican power elite who went to war in Iraq, and did so without an exit strategy. When the war raged on the ground for a lot longer than what some thought would be a quick and surgically precise air war, it was fair to say the doo doo had hit the fan. If any one person is responsible for the emergence of ISIS it is George W. Bush for entangling the U.S. in a desperate attempt to improve his personal stature, while lacking the vision for the exit of American soldiers, and failing to consider what may have risen from the ashes he left in his wake.
President Obama made the absolute best of an awful situation he was handed on day one, brought an end to the Iraq War, and brought the troops home as he had campaigned to do, and as the voters in 2008 implored him to do at the ballot box.
RESCUED THE AUTO INDUSTRY
The American automobile industry, a staple source of American pride and employment for millions, had bottomed out and was about done. Obama turned the industry around with a bailout republicans lobbied hard to block. The bailout worked wonders for the industry, however, and more than 100,000 jobs have grown out of the once again thriving U.S. auto industry.
TOOK ON WALL STREET
The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act provides protections for everyday consumers and investors by shielding the general public from predatory practices. President Obama signed Dodd-Frank into law and in doing so continued to allow Wall Street the flexibility it needs to grow and thrive while providing protections for consumers, homeowners, investors, borrowers, and those managing their retirement accounts. The most widely lauded aspect of Dodd-Frank is the clampdown it places on unfair, high interest, predatory lending practices designed to inflate the pockets of capitalist fat cats, while cheating the general public and pushing all to many to the point of destitution. Dodd-Frank could be improved upon, as discussed by Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries, but to strike it down as the president elect has strongly suggested is to economically cripple our most vulnerable people while providing breaks to the upper 10%.
ELIMINATED BIN LADEN AND GADAFFI
Under the President, the United States took down America’s most wanted man, Osama Bin Ladin. No small feat, Bin Ladin, the mastermind behind the September 11th terrorist attacks, had stayed well hidden and protected in what was purportedly the mountains of Afghanistan. When his position moved to one which, although highly buffered, allowed a susceptibility, the President along with Secretary Hillary Clinton and others in the Situation Room of the White House gave the directive, and the Navy Seals were able to take him out. A crowning achievement by any measure, and one George W. Bush had not been able to attain, removing Osama Bin Ladin was the first step in breaking the backbone of the Al Queda terror organization. No U.S. lives were lost.
Also successful was an attempt to eliminate Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi who had a stranglehold on the nation and his corner of the Middle East. Gaddaffi, who exterminated his own people, posed a constant threat for 42 years and was a chief figure in promoting the instability of the region. President Obama’s logistical plan assured the removal of Moammar Gaddafi, also without loss of American life. In both of these instances, the President did what his republican predecessor desperately wanted to do but was unable to achieve despite a war hawkish mindset. Obama played it cool, used intelligence to his benefit, and played his hand when the time was right. Removing Osama Bin Ladin and Moammar Gaddafi were highly applauded achievements and necessary components to building a safer, and more stable world.
EXPANDED CIVIL PROTECTIONS FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE AMERICANS
In America we pride ourselves for supporting the underdog. President Obama signed into law the Hate Crimes Protection Act, despite blustery opposition from republicans in the Senate. The Act provides protections against acts of hate perpetuated against anyone on the basis of their sex, gender, faith, ethnicity, and orientation. The vice president elect, Mike Pence, had been a strong voice against the Act. Instead he has supported legislation which would allow people to discriminate against the LGBT community, and against transgender people, who are among the most at risk people in America. In America, full protections under the law for everyone is the American Way, not discriminatory, predatory laws allowing discrimination against groups in the minority of the U.S. demographic. Shame on those, who like vice president elect Mike Pence, would champion the cause of discrimination against anyone simply looking to live his or her life on his or her own terms. Great praise is due President Obama who spent his life before the Presidency, and his two terms in office, fighting the good fight on behalf of all Americans, not just those in the majority of the demographic. Signing the Hate Crimes Protection Act was a bold move in the right direction for all Americans who value freedom, justice, personal liberty, and of course, basic decency for all.
EXPANDED WILDERNESS PROTECTIONS
By signing into law the Public Lands Management Act of 2009, President Obama ensured over two million new acres of wilderness protection in the United States. The Act has also allowed for the construction for thousands of miles of trails, both nature trails and historic trails. In addition, the Public Lands Management Act ensures protections in place for over one thousand miles of river ways. In addition to securing wilderness protections, the newly protected forest, desert, and river provide buffers to watersheds, improving the quality of drinking water and increasing the overall health of the ecosystems of the nation.
POINTED A WAY OUT OF THE STUDENT DEBT CRISIS
Going to college is supposed to help you to make a living, not cost you a living. the student debt crisis is completely out of hand, a fact not lost on Bernie Sanders, who campaigned on the promise of a cost free college education for any student. By stimulating spending on Pell Grants, the President has assisted countless students make their financial way through college. Equally importantly, Obama is cognizant of the forces at play when students are priced out of an education, and the ramifications for students who are carrying loads of debt at high percentage rates which cannot be refinanced. President Barack Obama has been unable to achieve the visionary goal of Bernie Sanders, and cost free education to all, but has kicked down the door paving the way to better managing the student debt crisis.
MAINTAINED EIGHT YEARS OF INTEGRITY
President Barack Obama served longer than any president in decades without a scandal of any type, as measured by the word (or more precisely, lack of the word) “scandal” being attached to his name in any predominant newspaper. As stated before, the President is a gentleman and his honest, clean, and gentlemanly nature has kept his administration free from scandal in a way many of his predecessors cannot claim to be true of themselves.
IMPROVED OUR NATION'S STANDING ABROAD
According to the Pew Foundation’s Global Attitudes Project, there was a 26% rise in favorable opinion from across the globe during the period of 2009-2012, which was the period surveyed. This is a remarkable gain in world standing from President Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. The alliances Obama has forged with many in the international community has generated a respect for him on a global scale. That hard won stature is on the wane for America, however, as the president elect readies himself to take office. As an example, more Britons are scared for the ramifications of this president elect than they are of Brexit, a shake up on enormous proportions which rocked Great Britain and the rest of the European Union, and the world.
We will look back on President Obama as a source of American pride. He led our nation as he carried himself, with dignity and respect for all. President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House will be remembered in the history books as a time when hope, progressivism, and pragmatism led the way to a brighter future for all Americans, and our global friends and neighbors.