In his historic presidency, Barack Obama has travelled to over 51 countries to strengthen diplomatic relationships with America’s foreign allies, while also forging new ones. On Sunday, Obama made his final foreign trip as president to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Lima, Peru.
Yes, our beloved president has, in the words of the late great Notorious B.I.G., “been around the world … and been player hated.” The president’s travel as an extension of his foreign policy is reflected his choices.
According to journalist Fareed Zakaria, Obama has pursued a new foreign policy, one “that limits U.S. involvement in establishing political order in the Middle East, focusing instead on counterterrorism. This has freed the administration to pursue new approaches with countries such as Iran and Cuba and to direct attention and resources to the Asia-Pacific region, which in just a few years will be home to four of the world’s five largest economies.”
Just this year, the president traveled to Cuba. Although he’s not the first U.S. president to do so, his March 2016 trip opened up diplomatic relations between the two nations for the first time in over 50 years. In May, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima during a trip to Asia.
This is but one of President Obama’s “firsts,” becoming the first U.S. sitting president to travel to the countries of Burma, Cambodia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Laos. Let’s explore these historic trips in more detail.
Burma (Myanmar): November 19, 2012
President Obama embarked on a historic three-day trip to Asia on November 17-20, 2012. He visited Thailand, Burma and Cambodia. In Burma/Myanmar, Obama met with President Thein Sein and his opposition, the leader of the National League for Democracy, Aung San Suu Kyi. The president’s visit served to further encourage Burma’s transition to democratic leadership from a decades-long hold of power under military rule.
Source: Paula Bronstein / Getty
Cambodia: November 19, 2012
Making history twice in one day, Obama visited Cambodia where he attended the East Asia Summit and meet with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Kenya: July 24-26, 2015
Obama’s 2015 trip to Kenya was not only diplomatic, but personal. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was a native son of the nation, and during the two-day period there, Obama met with several family members. The trip served to “reinforce America’s commitment to expand economic growth and trade, strengthening democracy on a global scale and investing in the next generation of African leaders,” according to the White House.
Ethiopia: July 26-28, 2015
Much like his historic back-to-back visits to Burma and Cambodia, President Obama flew to Ethiopia to meet with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn directly after his trip to Kenya. During the visit, Obama urged Ethiopian political leaders to embrace freedom of the press and forged talks centered on human rights issues.
Cuba: March 20-22, 2016
Obama’s controversial trip to Cuba in 2016 marked the first time a sitting U.S. president visited the country since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. Obama, accompanied by First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha and Malia, embarked on a two-day trip in March 2016. Obama’s visit with Cuban President Raul Castro directed a path to restore relations between the two countries.
Hiroshima, Japan: May 27, 2016
President Obama made a brief stop during his trip to Asia in May 2016 to lay a wreath at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which commemorates the United States dropping an atomic bomb on the city on August 6, 1945, during World War II. Though Obama’s visit reminded the world of the dangers of atomic weapons, many were upset the President refrained from apologizing for the attack.
Laos: September 5-8, 2016
During his visit, Obama attempted to make amends for the carnage the United States caused during the Vietnam war. In the 1970s, the U.S. dropped more than 2 million tons of bombs on Laos, making it the most heavily bombed country per capita in human history. The president also announced a plan for reparations by doubling the amount of aid to $30 million dollars every year for three years.