With the power of a nation in his hands and the hope of a people in his heart, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States on January 20, 2009.
His supporters reveled in every moment of his inaugural ceremony; while those who opposed Obama’s election plotted his political demise, strategized about how to bring him down and promised to aggressively oppose any initiative he proposed.
For eight long years, his opponents stood as a bulwark to progress and committed to make him a one term president against the will of the majority of Americans who overwhelmingly supported Obama and his agenda through two Presidential election cycles—2008 and 2012.
Obama promised a lot, and to some extent, there are some among his supporters who expected even more. There are those who believe he did not do enough and it’s true— some promises remain unfulfilled; and yet, there are many other supporters who believe history will judge Obama as one of the most successful and consequential presidents in U.S. history. His success made even sweeter because he achieved so much in the face of such unyielding opposition—and through it all, never lost his cool.
Some of President Obama’s major accomplishments include:
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform
President Barack Obama said the Great Recession resulted from a failure of responsibilities by Wall Street that extended to the halls of power in Washington, D.C. Antiquated and poorly enforced banking rules allowed many in the industry to game the system and take risks that endangered the entire economy. Although not a single individual was ever held personally accountable for the failures that led to the nation’s economic downfall, the President signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform bill to help prevent such disasters from occurring in the future. The legislation was fought by powerful interest groups and the partisan minority of Republicans who attempted to block its passage. Dodd-Frank cracked down on abusive practices in the mortgage industry; made contracts simpler and ended many hidden penalties and fees in complex mortgages so people will know what they are signing.
Affordable Care Act
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 28, 2012. The law granted Americans new benefits, rights and protections and ensured that millions more U.S. citizens have access to affordable, quality healthcare—including those with pre-existing conditions. It allows young people to remain on their parents’ insurance until they’re 25; there are no lifetime caps; and it closed the prescription drug donut hole for seniors. The ACA has decreased the rate of growth of health care spending; placed greater focus on preventative health care and worked to address other problems in the health care system. Although the Republicans are already working to repeal the Affordable Care Act under President-elect Trump, its ever-increasing enrollment numbers are a testament to the measure’s impact. According to eHealth Insurance Center that tracks such data, enrollment in the Affordable Care Act has grown from 8 million in 2014; to 11.7 million in 2015; to 12.7 million in 2016.
Climate Change/Paris Accord
President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to say unequivocally, “Climate change is a fact.” He led the most aggressive effort to combat climate change in a generation. He established federal protocols to mitigate its impacts; developed long-term drought resilience measures; issued an Executive Order to improve environmental efforts in the Arctic region and called for better coordination between the 23 federal agencies operating in the area. He significantly enhanced the nation’s quest for clean energy; reduced America’s dependence on foreign oil; abandoned plans to drill for oil in the Atlantic; blocked drilling off the coast of California through 2022; advocated for and signed the historic, international Accord de Paris on climate change.
Saving the Auto Industry
President Barack Obama saved and strengthened the auto industry by granting bridge loans to General Motors and Chrysler—the companies restructured, improved innovation and became profitable again. The effort kept these companies from dragging down the rest of the industry— including suppliers. Obama’s strategy minimized taxpayer loss; saved countless jobs; created new industry jobs; reduced oil use and cut pollution. He accomplished this by implementing strong fuel-economy and carbon-pollution standards and stronger criteria for reduced oil use with target dates for implementation. He invested in fuel-efficient vehicle research and development; provided federal loans to convert factories to produce fuel-efficient vehicles; and funded the “Cash for Clunkers” program that increased vehicle efficiency and jump-started consumer demand for automobiles during the recession.
Criminal Justice Reform
President Barack Obama kept his promise to shine a light on criminal justice and be a champion for reform. He became the first sitting president in history to visit a federal prison. He signed the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 and facilitated significant improvements in drug sentencing guidelines. He established the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He called for reforms that included recommendations for the use of police body cameras; reduced sentences for non-violent offenders; sought limits on the type of equipment that flowed from the military to law enforcement agencies; and encouraged employers to ban the box. Obama commuted nearly 1200 federal sentences— more than the past 11 presidents combined; and under his stewardship, the federal prison population was reduced to a near 50-year low. In addition, Obama also ordered a ban on solitary confinement for juvenile offenders in federal prisons.
These are just a sampling of some of his major achievements and yet, we have barely scratched the surface. Barack Hussein Obama leaves the U.S. Presidency still a young man. Who knows what his future holds? Some believe he is yet to fulfill his greatest potential and wonder, ‘What other gifts will he offer the world?’
President Obama captured the zeitgeist of a generation—he was the right man for this moment in history. In the words of the songstress and poet, Ysaye M. Barnwell, “For each child that's born a morning star rises and sings to the universe who we are. We are our grandmothers’ prayers; we are our grandfathers’ dreaming’s; we are the breath of the ancestors; we are the spirit of God. We are mothers of courage; fathers of time; daughters of dust; and sons of great visions. We are sisters of mercy; brothers of love; lovers of life; and the builders of nations. We're seekers of truth; and keepers of faith; makers of peace, and wisdom of ages . . .”
Thank you, Barack Hussein Obama for serving the nation with wisdom, honor and distinction as its first President of African-American descent.