A wrenching farewell to a wonderful president: eight years of improvement meets impending doom

Illustration: Cosette Puckett
Illustration: Cosette Puckett

In a country as divided as the United States, roughly half of citizens are bound to be unhappy with the results of a presidential election. I remember feeling gleeful disbelief in November 2008 upon realising that after eight years of a crippling George W. Bush administration, we were finally going to thrive under democratic rule –– and not just any democratic rule, but that of Barack Obama.

Mr Obama represented hope for a more united, compassionate, and progressive country. He was charismatic, optimistic, patriotic, and, most importantly, very, very smart. He showed generations of young boys and girls of colour just how much they could accomplish. In an increasingly inclusive America, individuals would no longer be hindered by the colour of their skin.

Eight years later, however, the United States has a president-elect who is known for his racial slurs, sexist comments, and insulting imitations of people with disabilities. It has only been two weeks since the election, but the country has already been plastered with swastikas. Muslim women on college campuses all over America have been assaulted, and African-American men are afraid to so much as look at policemen for fear of unwarranted attack.

Donald Trump-supporting Republicans are clearly fed up with Mr Obama’s presidency. Many of them claim that we need change because he has achieved nothing. So, just what has Mr Obama done?

Obama salutes
Photo: Creative Commons

He passed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, after five presidents over the course of 100 years failed to create universal health insurance. The ACA covers 32 million uninsured Americans, but Mr Trump has promised to tear it apart.

Mr Obama ended the bloody, drawn-out war in Iraq, with the last troops finally leaving in December 2011. He has worked to end the war in Afghanistan, but the United States became so entangled under the Bush administration that extrication has proved more complex than anticipated.

Mr Obama revived the United States auto industry; Chrysler and GM have generated 250,000 jobs during Mr Obama’s tenure.

He recapitalised banks. He passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which holds Wall Street responsible in case of another financial crisis.

He repealed “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” which called for LGBTQ individuals in the military to keep their sexual identities hidden. He also went on to commend and support the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage.

Mr Obama reversed Mr Bush’s torture policies, which allowed prisoners in US custody to undergo interrogation techniques such as waterboarding that the Geneva Conventions had ruled inhumane. Homicides have dropped 13 per cent.

Mr Obama increased support for veterans, contrary to the stereotype that Republican politicians are more likely to promote interests related to the military. He increased the budget for Veterans Affairs by 16 per cent in 2010 and 10 per cent in 2011. He also signed a bill that offered $78 billion in tuition assistance for veterans, and he provided tax credits that advocate the employment of veterans.

Obama situation room
Photo: Creative Commons

Mr Obama, alongside Raul Castro, restored diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba following over 60 years of tension.

He encouraged states to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, and 18 states and DC responded.

The number of illegal immigrants in the United States has actually gone down by at least 3.4 per cent.

Mr Obama fought for the Paris Agreement, an incredible initiative that will reduce global climate change. Mr Trump just asked Myron Ebell, an infamous climate change denier, to oversee environmental concerns. Mr Ebell has promised that his first act in office will be to dismantle the Paris Agreement, which will not only have devastating effects on the environment but also hurt the United States’ relationship with international allies who support the agreement.

Mr Obama signed the Recovery Act, which saved millions of jobs and cut taxes for the poor. He revived the economy in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The economy has added over 9.7 million jobs, and the unemployment rate has dropped below the historical norm.

Oh, and Mr Obama ordered the Special Forces operation that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

I am not denying that Mr Obama has made errors that have negatively impacted many individuals. However, he has also achieved truly outstanding accomplishments, and in comparison to presidents from the past several decades, he is by far the best.

I cannot begin to imagine the horrors that Mr Trump will unleash on the United States. It took Mr Obama eight years to achieve all of the aforementioned progress, but unfortunately progress is much easier to destroy than create.

So, with heavy hearts, we bid a farewell of dread to a man who has done so much for his country, and we replace him with a man who has done so little.



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