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President Obama: Life, Legacy, and the Years Ahead

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President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama

Photo by: Katy Grannan for The New York Times

Photo by: Katy Grannan for The New York Times

President Barack Obama

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In an interview with Oprah, First Lady Michelle Obama discussed the time she and her husband spent in the White House. And one theme continued to pop up time and time again: hope. She made it a point to explain that no matter the politics, no matter the Democrat vs Republican squabbles for power, she and her husband worked continuously to serve as an example of hope for the American people. And President Obama’s last eight years in the White House have accomplished just that.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is just one example of the legislation he has passed that gave a lot more hope to the people. It’s an act concerning health care, and commonly known as Obamacare, was aimed at providing cheaper (or free) health care to those who were previously unable to afford it. Republicans attacked Obamacare in the media, painting it as a major failure and arguing that it was a drain on already dwindling federal funds. But the fact is, since the ACA was passed in 2010, 17.6 million people have gained health care coverage according to CBS News. For Americans below the poverty, the ACA and Obama’s overall fight for affordable health care has made a true and significant difference on each of those 17.6 million peoples’ lives.

As a true Democrat, President Obama has also taken an extremely important stance on environmental issues. He has believed in climate change, one of the most controversial issues in politics today, and has tried to preserve the environment for generations to come. In December of 2016, just as he was preparing to leave office, President Obama made a decision to ban oil drilling in large areas of the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. This policy guarantees the end of massive oil spills in those areas and is a form of protection for aquatic wildlife, including dolphins and sea turtles. In 2010, the BP Company’s Deepwater Horizon offshore oil-drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico (an accident entirely possible in offshore drilling) after the wellhead on the ocean bottom ruptured and released natural gas. Well, it took engineers three months with robot-controlled submarines to cap the wellhead, and by that point, 4.9 million barrels (or 206 million gallons) of oil had been released into the ocean. The accident oiled 460 sea turtles and killed 600, along with many other species in the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama’s banning of offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans in his last months of presidency, along with many other of his acts on behalf of the environment, will preserve and protect our natural habitats for years to come.

But Obama has not just focused on social and environmental issues but has also done a great deal for the war on terrorism. Many of us, especially in southern California, remember the San Bernadino shooting in December of 2015. At the time, President Obama said in a public speech, “Even as we continue to grieve over the attack in San Bernardino, we’re leading a global coalition and hitting ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) harder than ever. In Syria and Iraq, ISIL is losing territory, and we’re not going to stop until we destroy this terrorist organization.”

The devastating part of the Obama administration is actually that it had to end. The switch from blue to red (Democrat to Republican, for the less politically attuned) suggests that many of Obama’s strides in American Democracy will be undone or dismantled by the Trump administration. Already there has been a call and movement by the Trump administration to dismantle Obamacare that will affect thousands of Americans almost immediately.

Likely, the only thing about Obama that will be remembered centuries from now is the election of the first African-American as President of the United States. Though an incredible political development, his presidency does not represent the eradication of racism completely from the United States; and this is shown most predominantly by the election of Donald Trump in the subsequent 2016 election.

Let Girls Learn
Michelle Obama Leads Her Own Campaign: One for Women’s Education

 

In his personal life, Obama was a well-educated and well-rounded man. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991, where he met his future wife. An icon for the American people, Michelle Obama was the epitome of grace and morality over the course of the Obama administration, and led many charitable initiatives. Her more noted campaigns involved the education of women around the world and the fight against American obesity. Known as the Let Girls Learn project, the First Lady and her own staff worked–and continue to work–tirelessly for funding the education of women in under-developed and developing countries where public education is unavailable to women due to a lack of funding or a lack of desire to specifically educate women. Together Barack and Michelle showed the world an African-American couple tainted by nothing and who radiated with grace and pride.

Michelle and Barack are also the parents of two young girls (Malia and Sasha Obama), one of which has begun her college education and another who is soon to follow. Michelle has told Oprah and other sources that she and her husband have tried to raise the girls “normally,” even while living in the White House with their father as the leader of a powerful nation. They represent a normal, healthy family as the former first lady often describes how her teenage daughters would roll their eyes at President Obama’s “bad dad jokes.”

But the legacy that President Obama leaves behind is of more than hope and normalcy. The years ahead suggest that President Trump will likely attempt to erase many pieces of legislation that has come into American policy because of President Obama and his administration.

The Affordable Care Act is first on the chopping block, followed by acts signed by President Trump to resume activity in the South Dakota Access Pipeline and the XL Pipeline. With many of his environmental, public health, and societal strides in legislation, it becomes difficult to say what will become of the years ahead in terms of policy.

Surprisingly, the New York Times and other major newspapers in America expect Trump to keep the protection of L.G.B.T.Q. citizens a priority, just as President Obama did. In a statement by the White House, Trump is said to be “respectful and supportive of L.G.B.T.Q. rights, just as he was throughout the election.” And, as a fun fact, President Trump was the first G.O.P. nominee in American history to mention the L.G.B.T.Q. community in his acceptance speech, according to the White House.

President Obama, further, appointed Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan (notably two women) to the Supreme Court over the course of his presidency. These are liberal votes in the nation’s highest court that cannot legally be touched by the new Republican hands in the White House. Under these Supreme Court Justices, same-sex marriage and pro-choice laws came to pass that also cannot be taken away by the Trump administration.

What’s left of the Obama administration?—strides in L.G.B.T.Q. protections and rights, the appointment of women to the Supreme Court, and a legacy of hope in our government and in ourselves that will last for decades.

Do not lose faith in the government or it its laws. Take action with peaceful protest, with letters to your local congressmen and senators, and take the opportunity to vote actively in both local and national government. This is how we can keep the spirit of the Obama administration alive.

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