The truth? We can’t even begin to imagine how much we’re going to miss him as the leader of our nation, yet, but we’re about to find out.
Ultimately it will be up to historians, who are compelled to rely on facts and evidence, to determine an accurate ranking for President Barack Hussein Obama when compared to other great presidents who made great political, social and economic accomplishments in their time — like Lincoln, FDR, and Johnson. But to suggest that Obama was anything less than a great president is to blatantly deny the truth, the evidence, and the reality.
The execution of Osama Bin Laden. The rescue of The Big Three auto companies. The rescue of the entire U.S. economy from meltdown. The historic passage of the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare.
That’s just for starters, and they all occurred during his first term, but those four monumental achievements alone are enough in themselves.
So no, not one of the greatest black presidents, because there were none before he showed up. President Obama was one of the greatest commanders-in-chief period. Maybe he was not the absolute greatest, but certainly he deserves to be counted among that relatively small number who will be remembered for the outstanding contributions made toward the protection and betterment of America in the face of overwhelming obstacles and tremendous challenges. Please note that these herculean feats don’t put him in the realm of a perfect individual, or as a president who did not make his share of mistakes. He certainly did, and some of them were major.
Ultimately, there is far more to be appreciated in the plus column than in the negative. Even with his mishaps, Obama’s intent was always to make this country better for all Americans, which included those who hated him the most. He said it best during his farewell speech, delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 10 in his hometown of Chicago:
“It falls to each of us to be those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we all share the same proud title: Citizen.
“Ultimately, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you’re tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try to talk with one in real life. If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing. If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in others can be a risk, and there will be times when the process disappoints you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire. And more often than not, your faith in America – and in Americans – will be confirmed.”
That sort of strength, grace, and optimism, exhibited after eight years of steady, non-stop resistance and hatred, much of it based solely on his race, is close to superhuman.
As a black man, only those of us who are actually black have an inkling of the kind of determination and miracle-working magic it took to not only get the job, and then to get the job done, but to keep that job. Obama was — and is — proof positive that in most cases a black man still has to be able to run faster, jump higher, and leap tall buildings in a single bound before he could have even be considered for the type of leadership position that someone like …well… Trump… can get just by being rich, white and male.
Yeah, I said it. Because it’s true and you know it. The man had no leaks from his administration. No scandals. None. He has a smile designed by a toothpaste commercial, a really good toothpaste commercial. He has a drop-dead gorgeous wife whom he adores and who adores him. And who also happens to be brilliant, probably as brilliant as he is, and is a Princeton graduate who also attended Harvard Law School and followed it up building a resume that makes pretty much everybody else look like an under- achiever. Couple that with two beautiful, intelligent children and a great sense of humor, good looks, extreme swagger and crazy charisma. Oh yeah, and he was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. The Legal legend and Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Tribe once described Barack Obama as the best student he ever taught.
Etc. Etc. Etc.
Name the last U.S. president of your lifetime who can match that. Right. There are none. Meanwhile, here are a few more accomplishments:
- International Climate Change Agreement: Obama led global efforts to reach the International Climate Agreement. It was negotiated in Paris on Dec. 12, 2015 (The Balance, Jan. 2017).
- Job Growth: Obama’s policies helped the country recover from the Great Recession. He created 17.267 million jobs since he took office. That makes him the second best job-creator, following Bill Clinton ( The Balance, Jan. 2017)
- Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell:”Ended 1990s-era restriction and formalized new policy allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military for the first time (Washington Monthly, March/April 2012).
- Increased Support for Veterans:With so many soldiers coming home from Iraq and Iran with catastrophic physical and mental health problems, and facing long waits for services, he increased the 2010 Department of Veterans Affairs budget by 16 percent and the 2011 budget by 10 percent. The POTUS also signed a new GI bill offering $78 billion in tuition assistance over a decade, and provided multiple tax credits to encourage businesses to hire veterans.(Washington Monthly, March/April 2012).
- Passed Fair Sentencing Act:Signed 2010 legislation that reduces sentencing disparity between crack versus powder cocaine possession from 100/1 to 18/1 (Washington Monthly, March/April 2012).
- Provided Payment to Wronged Minority Farmers:In 2009, signed Claims Resolution Act, which provided $4.6 billion in funding for a legal settlement with black and Native American farmers who the government cheated out of loans and natural resource royalties in years past (Washington Monthly, March/April 2012).
It will be up to those of us who are willing to believe the evidence to fight for the preservation of President Obama’s legacy, and to protect it from revisionists, because rest assured it will not be elevated to its rightful place on its own. The preservation of Obama’s legacy will undoubtedly require a fight, especially if this country continues its steady slide over the cliff to the right.
But surely it is a fight worth waging.