By Karen Stokes
On Friday, January 20, 2017, after eight years, we will officially say goodbye to the 44th president of the United States. The first Black man elected to the highest office in the land, Barack Hussein Obama II.
The journey was not always smooth, but President Obama with First Lady Michelle Obama led this country with dignity, class and compassion.
For the majority of the public, the journey began at the 2004 Democratic convention. The convention would be the first time most of us became aware of the charismatic senator from Illinois. As he delivered the keynote speech, we witnessed greatness. Following the exceptional speech, the self-described “skinny kid with a funny name” immediately emerged as a star of the Democratic Party with speculation of a presidential bid.
On November 4, 2008, Democrat, Barack Obama was elected president of the United States defeating Republican Senator John McCain by nearly 10 million votes.
On an uncharacteristically warm November night in Chicago at Grant Park in front of an estimated crowd of 250,000 which included Oprah and Jesse Jackson, President Obama proclaimed, “Change has come to America!” And it did.
Even when facing obstruction from his critics in Congress, President Obama’s legacy includes progress and a great many accomplishments.
Affordable healthcare for all
The president’s signature legislation was the Affordable Care Act. Five previous presidents have tried and failed to create universal health care. The ACA was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The CDC reported that the percentage of people without health insurance fell from 16.0% in 2010 to 8.9% in June 2016.
Ending the 2008 Recession
In February 2009, Congress approved Obama’s $787 billion economic stimulus package.
It cut taxes, extended unemployment benefits, and funded public works projects. The ending of the recession occurred in July when GDP growth turned positive.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international group that tracks growth, said in a June 2016 report that the U.S. had rebounded from the recession that began in December 2007. The U.S. recovery was the strongest in the developed world. The report credited sound monetary policy and the “well-timed expansion of fiscal policy.”
Turning around the auto industry
In 2009, $62 billion in federal money was infused into ailing GM and Chrysler in return for equity stakes and agreements for massive restructuring. Since the economic crisis in 2009, the auto industry has added more than 100,000 jobs. In 2011, GM, Ford and Chrysler all gained market share for the first time in two decades.
Eliminated Osama bin Laden
After the attack on 9/11, the call was to find and capture al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. On May 1, 2011, Navy Seals raid was carried out in a CIA led operation to the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding. He was killed at the compound, U.S. forces took bin Laden’s body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried him at sea within 24 hours of his death in accordance with Islamic tradition.
Obama is one of the biggest job creating Presidents in U.S. history. His policies created over 11 million jobs from the depths of the recession in January 2010 to the end of his term. This job growth has helped cut the African American unemployment rate in half – from 16.8% in March 2010 to 8.3% in December 2015, its lowest level since September 2007.
Gas and Oil Production
Another major success that makes America stronger is that America invested in homegrown energy. America is the world’s number one producer of gas and oil. America produces more oil than Russia or Saudi Arabia. For the first time in 20 years, America produces more oil than we buy from other countries.
President Barack Obama has worked to make the lives of every American better, including African Americans. His rivals focus on negative statistics still plaguing the African American community but the president has worked to make positive strides.
My Brothers Keeper
In February 2014, the president introduced My Brother’s Keeper, which focuses improving the lives of young African American males to help them reach their full potential through mentoring and networking. The initiative is the first ever under any presidential administration.
Accessible and Affordable college
According to Black Enterprise, President Obama signed legislation increasing the maximum Pell Grant by more than $1,000 and total Pell Grant funding by 70%, helping millions of low- and moderate-income students afford college every year. He’s also taken steps to reduce student loan burdens, including ending student loan subsidies for private banks.
The SBA has increased outreach to the African American community with the launch of the Business Smart Toolkit, a business basics and lender-readiness resource in partnership with the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders. Additionally, SBA partnered with national organizations such as U.S. Black Chambers Inc. and 100 Black Men of America, to reach more entrepreneurs. SBA launched the My Brother’s Keeper Millennial Entrepreneurs Initiative, partnering with HBCUs and community colleges to promote entrepreneurship across college campuses, and MBK Millennials according to Black Enterprises.
Helping home owners
African American families were hit hard by the housing crisis and predatory lending. The president took action to help homeowners, including expanding access to refinancing – allowing responsible borrowers to save an average of $3,000 per year.
The Administration also took measures to allow homeowners behind on their payments to modify their mortgages to avoid foreclosure – with more than 1.5 million borrowers having received permanent modifications through the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), the Administration’s cornerstone foreclosure prevention program, and millions more receiving private modifications that were modeled off of HAMP.
In 2012, President Obama handily won the presidency for a second term by defeating Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney by over 5 million votes destroying the goal that Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell set in 2010, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
With these achievements and more his biggest accomplishment may be surviving two terms without personal scandal. Even under the scrutiny and ridicule from the public, Republicans and the press, President Obama never lost his swagger.
Although some believe President Obama did not do enough for the African American community, and others believe he divided the country, he was an effective leader and succeeded in leaving America better off than when he began his presidency. The latest CNN/ORC poll finds President Obama is leaving office with a 60 percent approval rating.
After the inauguration on Friday the president and his family will be taking a vacation to Palm Springs, then settle in their new residence in Washington DC. until their youngest daughter Sasha 15, completes high school. President Obama is the first former president to remain in Washington since Woodrow Wilson in 1921.
On twitter, the president wrote that he would like to do some writing and spend more time with his family after leaving office.
No matter what history says about his time as President of The United States of America, Barack Obama’s love of his family, his intelligence and personal strength brought pride not only for the African American community but for the entire nation that will forever be his LEGACY! FAREWELL AND THANK YOU PRESIDENT OBAMA.