President Obama will clearly hold a place in the history books. But what will be the verdict on his legacy?
Now that President Obama is in his final year of office serving as the 44th President of the United States of America, I would like to take the time to reflect on what his Presidency has meant for me (an African immigrant living in the United States). Before I share my thoughts on what President Obama’s legacy is, it’s important to highlight some of the Obama administration’s successes and failures that have occurred during the past seven years.
Starting with the President’s successes, his supporters will highlight the fact that the unemployment rate has been reduced from a whopping 10 percent to 4.9 percent as of February 2016. Many political and social commentators on the left suggest that this (the unemployment rate) is the Obama administration’s biggest accomplishment which was aided by the $787 billion economic stimulus plan and the unpopular Wall Street bailouts. So during the course of this Presidency, the U.S. economy has made the transition from the Great Recession to moderate economic growth. Therefore, President Obama and his administration deserve a lot of credit for steering the American economy out of the abyss of the Great Recession.
Also high on the President’s list of successes would be the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden (America’s sworn enemy) and all the drama that went along with this “military victory.” Another major accomplishment is the creation and implementation of the Affordable Care Act also known as “Obamacare,” which is now the law of the land despite vehement Republican opposition. Other accomplishments of the Obama administration include the renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba, the signing of the nuclear deal with Iran, and the tremendous gains seen in the stock market. It’s no surprise that if you spend five minutes with President Obama’s supporters, you’ll soon come to learn that Obama is a household favorite in the Democratic Party.
Those against the President (particularly individuals on the right and some on the far left) will highlight the continued income inequality and low level of wages for the average American worker. Another disappointment is the growth of ISIS and a “failed” Middle East foreign policy that has left nations like Libya and Syria in disarray. Furthermore, the drone wars that have caused the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in countries like Pakistan, Syria and Yemen is also viewed as a huge failure of this President’s administration. Sadly, officials within the Pentagon and the Obama administration refer to the causalities from the drone war as “mistakes in warfare.”
On the home front, the breakdown in race relations between city police departments and the urban core across the nation is viewed as a failure of leadership by President Obama. You can also add this administration’s failure to address campaign finance reform and the ever growing military industrial complex, and the fact that 47 million citizens of this great nation still live in poverty, as failures of this administration.
So with these different perspectives, the question I have to ask myself is; what is President Obama’s true legacy? Well his legacy can best be summed up by what his election has actually meant to the United States. For instance, there are young children of all races who have only witnessed a black man holding the highest office in land during the course of their young lives. Why is this important some may ask? Because these children are now growing up in a world where they are able to see people of color serving in high places, unlike their parents and grandparents who grew up in times where minorities had to sit in the back of the bus or attend schools or live in communities that were segregated by law. This is why I’d like to think that because of President Obama’s election, today’s children have a different and more enlightened perspective than their parents. These children are living in times that reflect what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. asked of all of us and that was “to judge the content of one’s character and not the color of their skin.”
Another impact the Obama Presidency has offered us is its impact on young men and women of color. There is a generation of young black children whose heroes were ball players, hip hop artists and individuals in the entertainment industry. With all due respect to the entertainers, the election of Barack Obama has meant a great deal for the minority community in the sense that it has allowed young children of color to see first-hand that you can be a huge success by pursuing an education, serving your community, and pursuing careers that fall outside of the arenas of entertainment. In simple terms, Obama has made it cool to wear a suit while being articulate at the same time. Count how many times you have witnessed this President lose his cool or not communicate his ideas or agenda in constructive and intelligent ways. Not forgetting his “picture perfect family” i.e. the intelligent and beautiful first lady and adorable two daughters Sasha and Malia. As trivial as that may seem to most, you cannot discount the impact that positive role models have on a young person’s life. The Obama’s in my opinion, are the definition of the American dream.
It would be unfortunate if the readers of this article assume that the President’s ethnicity is his biggest accomplishment (that is simply not the case.) It’s what his election has taught us about the country that declares that all men are created equal. This is why I believe the history books won’t just reflect that in 2008, America elected its first black President, what I’d like to think is that the history books will record that this generation was bold enough to elect and re-elect an individual with an African name, Arabic middle name, born from an interracial marriage, raised in Hawaii, who then served as community organizer in the streets of Chicago, and later became America’s 44th President. So rather than salute and celebrate President Obama, I salute the nation that made his Presidency possible. As an immigrant I know first-hand that the United States is not the perfect place, however, stories like Barack Obama’s or mine are only possible in a land that I call my home away from home.