“Yes We Can” was the hallmark slogan of former president Barack Obama during his first election campaign. He captured the hearts of many Americans with his eloquent speeches and his ability to bring the message of hope. Obama, being the closest potentially first black president at the time, caused many Americans to believe that the time of racism and bigotry were behind us.
However, Obama’s election campaign and his actual eight-year presidency are two very different experiences. During these eight years, Obama accomplished a lot. There are criticisms and praises on both sides of the political spectrum, and I would like to examine these major milestones in Obama’s presidency.
Obama’s four biggest accomplishments are:
1. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)
On his show Jimmy Kimmel conducted several experiments over the years where he goes out into the public and asks people whether they prefer Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s a hilarious video where people who are unaware of Obamacare ignorantly side with it because they like Obama, and vice versa for those who disagree with Obama.
The basis of the ACA was an attempt to cover more people and add more benefits. This, in nature, is good-hearted, and the ACA will probably remain being known as Obamacare due to the Obama administrations tenacity in enacting it.
“I think he had a good heart and he truly believed what he was going for,” Senior Biology major Colton Bachman said.
I think Obama did have good intentions, but typically emotional foundations provoke people to automatically side with a good intended thing. Tens of millions of uninsured people now have access to healthcare and there are now more private coverage options out there, but there are also now new taxes in place to cover the money that’s needed to insure all these people. Because of this, those who barely miss the federal poverty level limit are hit the hardest because they don’t qualify for assistance.
2. Marriage Equality
As for other milestones in Obama’s career as president, Marriage Equality is a close second place in importance. On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage across the United States. It was a 5-4 decision that ruled that bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional. By that point, 36 states already had legal same-sex marriage, so only 14 states had to stop issuing bans. This sparked a lot of controversy across the nation. A lot of people will always correlate this event to Obama’s presidency even though Obama himself did not legalize same-sex marriage.
I believe this issue should have been a state decision; the national government shouldn’t be involved in any marriage. My concern lies with the fact that six to nine people have the power to make major decisions for an entire group of people rather than same-sex marriage becoming legal.
3. Acknowledging ISIS
An issue that Obama could arguably be most criticized on was how he dealt with ISIS. Most of what people remember about Obama’s remarks on ISIS concerned how he referred to them as a J.V. team. This brought Obama to admit to his errors in an interview with CBS News on “60 Minutes.” In the interview he acknowledged underestimating the threat of the Islamic State.
“I think he was a little naïve,” Junior Applied Exercise Science major Stephen Flora said.
When it came to ISIS, there was a huge stigma with the fact that Obama refused to acknowledge ISIS as a product of Islam. There seems to have been a lot of ignorance towards ISIS and their capabilities throughout the years.
4. Handling Racial Tensions Towards the Black Community
I believe the biggest task Obama should have prioritized is paying more attention to the black community. In 2015, 990 people were killed by police officers, 258 of whom were black, according to a report by the International Business Times. Racial tensions have been at an all time high these past few years, and there never seemed to have been any big reforms to help deal with it.
Obama’s major contribution to the black community was introducing My Brother’s Keeper in Feb. 2014. This initiative was made to help improve the lives of young African American males. The initiative is encouraging nonprofits to raise $200 million in five years for programs focused on young men of color, according to a report by Carolyn M. Brown of Black Enterprise. Obama even claimed to make this project his main focus after his presidency.
Obama didn’t enact any immediate executive orders to ease the racial tensions in our country. However, I did see him having thought ahead in regards to My Brother’s Keeper, which is a gradual and long-term plan that may not see effects for years.
I had a lot of mixed feelings during Obama’s terms. Like many, I saw his presidency as a symbol of progress. In a country where, once upon a time, having a black president was not even possible. It was refreshing to see Obama win both of his election terms.
Obamacare did not personally affect me because I was never in the position to benefit or be penalized by it. I do believe he could have taken ISIS a lot more seriously throughout his campaign, and I think he tried too hard to pander to the ideology of “islamophobia.”
As a black male, it often broke my heart to see the racial turmoil in our country. I was not satisfied with how Obama left the presidential office with our country being more divided than ever. Some say Obama is one of the greatest presidents we’ve had in our nation’s history, but I wouldn’t be one of those people.
However, I do appreciate the fact that he was a scandal-free president when it came to his family. He did an excellent job representing the African American nuclear family. He loved his wife and his daughters and that was evident throughout his two terms. Some people may see this as a minor detail, but previous presidencies did not have this sense of a scandal-free family. When discussing Obama with the conservatives and liberals I know they both agree that Barack Obama was a good father to his daughters and also a very good husband. Now, imagine if our first black president did have a scandal. What if one of Obama’s secretaries claimed he was unfaithful to his wife? It is an extremely positive thing that this is not the case, and I believe we should be grateful for that.