As the 2016 election finally comes to an end, our country is looking to the results: our new or re-elected senators, House representatives, mayors, governors, and, of course, our next President. However, America is also getting ready to say goodbye to its leader of eight years, President Barack Obama. With his two terms drawing to an end, the question must be asked: what will Obama be remembered for?
It is difficult to answer such a question without bringing up the obvious: Obama broke a long, stubborn tradition of the office of the President of the United States being held by white men. By becoming the first African American president, Obama not only paved the path for future hopefuls, he proved that America has moved a great length towards racial equality. Of course, there is much work still to be done, but his accomplishment represented progress—and he has sought to pursue further progress in equality, particularly with the legalization of gay marriage. For many, Obama has been an encouraging symbol that the American Dream is not limited to the systematically advantaged.
However, Obama’s legacy is far from being purely symbolic. Under his influence, the country has been greatly improved from the recession of the early-mid 2000s. Unemployment and the Consumer Price Index, which is used to measure inflation, have both gone down, and the economy has taken leaps towards stability, beginning most notably with his first-term bailout of General Motors. Though many may not agree with Obama’s economic policies, they were effective enough to keep the country’s financial situation from receding further into the disaster that existed when he first took office in 2008.
One of Obama’s promises of both his campaigns was healthcare for all, a project that, though passed, is still heavily debated. Obamacare is a sensitive policy topic for many, from supporters to opposition. Though the health plan experienced technological problems and is still young, President Obama did manage to successfully get his plan passed through Congress, and kept it alive for his presidency, bringing healthcare to citizens in need. However, its true effect on his legacy is yet to be seen: our newly elected president and Congress could and likely will decide to either expand or repeal it. Whether Obama’s project will be known as a success or a failure is still for the future to decide.
As president, Obama was not able to accomplish all he wanted to—few presidents in the history of the country ever have been. There have been periods of stalemate and many frustrations that plagued his administration. Congress refused to pass most of his proposed legislation, leaving many of his plans untested, and frequently was unable to pass any itself. The growing partisan climate and numerous deadlocks never really gave Obama the chance to leave the legacy he wanted to leave. America is left with what he was able to accomplish.
Some of President Obama’s accomplishments made instant impacts. Others took months, or years, to take effect. As with any large-scale change, the effect of some changes will still take years more to begin to see. At least for the time being, Obama’s legacy will be dictated by the economy, race and equality, and what he leaves behind for the next president.