At the beginning of 2016, an optimistic President Obama gave his final State of the Union speech, listing his accomplishments as well as his proposals for his final year in office – mentioning Obamacare, the TPP trade deal, opening Cuba, the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate agreement, the destruction of ISIS, closing Guantanamo Bay prison, reducing the influence of money in politics, fixing the immigration system, curing cancer and strengthening cybersecurity, among others. Hmm… looking back he’s probably thinking that maybe he should have lowered expectations a little. Obviously it’s a bit unfair to hold Obama solely responsible for the failure of some of those endeavors, but more than a few of his supporters are saying that his legacy leaves a lot to be desired.
Of course for a president who had to deal with a global financial crisis, sky-high hopes and a hostile Congress, Obama in many ways clearly achieved a hell of a lot, including more jobs, lower unemployment, more health insurance, lower crime and a more resilient economy. But in many other ways, he will be leaving office with so many things left undone or worsened, including race relations, police reform, partisan politics, public trust and morale, gun control and federal debt. And sadly “could be worse” is a poor replacement for “yes we can”. He couldn’t do everything, but the general feeling seems to be that he could have done more.
It’s the final countdown (whoa-oh-oh-oh) and many are wondering exactly what Obama’s legacy will look like and worrying how much will be left intact by the incoming administration. In the end Obama will be remembered in the history books as, yes, America’s first African American president, but also as a responsible, dignified, idealistic public servant who tried to look out for the entire country and to some extent made things better for a lot of people. But a president’s goal is always to leave the country in a better state than when they entered office, and whether you look behind or ahead, the people’s verdict seems to be a mixed bag.
Feel like retirement would be a drag? Movie for your adventurous mood: The Bucket List