“I grew up with Obama, I really did,” said senior Luis Juarez. “In 2008 he was elected as president, and it was a time of change for our country and for ‘we the young people.’ He was elected as we moved on to the next stage in our life, moving up into middle school, and now he’s stepping down from office, and we will be graduating high school this year.”
This year is Barack Obama’s last year in office, and with much of the nation’s focus turned towards the campaign trail, Obama’s final year has faded into the background. One debate that still remains is, “Was Obama a good president?” His presidency has been the subject of much controversy, a primary reason being that he is the first African American president. Many have also pointed out Obama’s lack of success in fully completing his agenda. Others feel that Obama deserves more credit that he is given.
“No, I don’t believe he was as unsuccessful as people portray him as,” said Loy Norrix government and law teacher Niambi Pringle. “What people need to understand is that as president you have to go through Congress, and when Congress and the president are from opposing parties, a lot of the work that the president is trying to do will be stalled. When a president comes in, they need one term to fix anything from the previous presidency and their second term is truly their term.”
One milestone moment in Obama’s presidency was when, in 2010, he signed the legislation to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy banning openly gay men and women from serving in the military. He is also the first president to openly support gay marriage. On June 26, 2015, during Obama’s second term, the United States Supreme Court ruled gay marriage as legal in all 50 states.
“Our nation was founded on a bedrock principle that we are all created equal,” Obama said in an address in the Rose Garden after the ruling. “The project of each generation is to bridge the meaning of those founding words with the realities of changing times — a never-ending quest to ensure those words ring true for every single American. […] This ruling is a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts: When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.”
Arguably, President Obama’s biggest accomplishment while in office is the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” or Obamacare. Signed into law on March 23, 2010, Obamacare gives over 10 million uninsured Americans access to affordable, high-quality health insurance through Medicaid expansion, their employers, and the Health Insurance Marketplace.
In order to get the money to help insure all these people, new taxes have been implemented (mostly on the wealthy and the healthcare industry).
Obamacare’s many protections ensure that you can’t be dropped from coverage or denied coverage based on your current health status. Additionally, you can’t be charged more for being a woman. Other protections ensure that you have the right to a rapid appeal, that health insurance companies can’t make unjustified rate hikes, and that these companies must spend the majority of premium dollars on care, not paying executives.
Obama’s biggest accomplishment is also his most criticized. Obamacare has faced many obstacles during the implementation of the act.
During the implementation of Obamacare, President Obama promised many times that if people liked their current healthcare plan and their doctor then they would be able to keep them. Many were outraged when the Independence Blue Cross sent its customers a notice saying that as a result of the Affordable Care Act, “your current plan will be discontinued effective January 1, 2014, and you will need to select a new plan by the end of December to avoid any interruption in coverage.” Obama was quick to assure everyone that their new insurance would be better, but people remained angry and skeptical.
When the Obamacare website healthcare.gov launched unsuccessfully, the president insisted that Obamacare was more than a law, and though the website was a mess, the underlying law was sound. Recently, however, many have begun to debate whether or not Obamacare deserves all the hate thrown it’s way.
“I think the American people are afraid of change and the fact that the status quo has run the country for so long, they were irritated that someone that they believed shouldn’t have been president was able to come in and shake things up,” said Pringle.
President Barack Obama’s second term began on January 20, 2013. Since his return to the oval office, he has led the United States into a new deal with Iran regarding their nuclear program. Before the deal, it would have taken Iran two to three months to assemble a nuclear weapon, now it would take twelve months or more. Obama also brought the United States into accord with 194 other nations that will limit the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
On a televised address from the White House, President Obama, who regards tackling climate change as a central element of his legacy, said, “This agreement sends a powerful signal that the world is fully committed to a low-carbon future. We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge.”
As of 2016 the biggest thing on President Obama’s agenda is gun violence. Since the shooting at Newtown in 2013, Obama has been working to remove the easy accessibility of guns.
“My biggest frustration so far is the fact that this society has not been willing to take some basic steps to keep guns out of the hands of people who can do just unbelievable damage,” said Obama in a Q&A with the CEO of Tumblr.
Unfortunately Obama has struggled to make any headway against gun violence. Instead of becoming a reality, gun restriction has become one of the biggest partisan debates of Obama’s presidency.
The biggest argument from Obama’s opposition on gun violence is that his restrictions on gun ownership violate the second amendment, the right to bear arms.
“I don’t believe what he is doing violates the second amendment, and I don’t believe that because I believe that the constitution is a living document which means that the constitution changes with the times. I think that the people who are angry with Obama believe that the constitution is a literal document meant to be read and interpreted exactly as it is.” Pringle continued, “Obama’s background is in constitutional law and as someone who has studied and has taught constitutional law, he knows how to create laws that don’t violate the constitution.”
On January 5, 2016, President Obama unveiled his new strategy to curb gun violence in America. His proposals focus on new background check requirements that will enhance the effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
Obama gave an address at the White House on January 5, during which he spoke of his plans to create tighter restrictions on gun ownership.
“Yes, it will be hard, and it won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen during this Congress. It won’t happen during my presidency. But a lot of things don’t happen overnight. A woman’s right to vote didn’t happen overnight. The liberation of African Americans didn’t happen overnight. LGBT rights — that was decades’ worth of work. So just because it’s hard, that’s no excuse not to try,” said Obama during an address given at the White House shortly after the new gun ownership restrictions were implemented.
A president’s final year in office is often his least successful or least active year owing to the fact that most people are focused on the presidential candidates for the upcoming term, but despite this, it would seem as though Obama deserves recognition for what he has done for our country.