OPINION: To be determined: President Obama’s legacy

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I’ll always remember President Barack Obama as my president. Of course, he was every American’s president, but the other leader of the free world that I can actually remember? President George W. Bush. To say the least, he wasn’t the ideal image of the country.

Obama brought a new charismatic sense of grace and progress to the White House that may only truly be appreciated when someone new sits in the Oval Office.

Despite his disagreements with Obama’s policy decisions, the president’s character is something he has taken for granted, conservative columnist David Brooks said in The New York Times article “I miss Barack Obama.”

“Obama radiates an ethos of integrity, humanity, good manners and elegance that I’m beginning to miss and that I suspect we will all miss a bit, regardless of who replaces him,” Brooks said.

Foreign policy

In its last year, the Obama administration has implemented historic foreign policy strategies and actions that have been in development since the 2008 campaign.

Obama’s ability to handle foreign policy was tested just months after his first inauguration when the captain of an American cargo ship was captured by Somali pirates. With much strategic planning and patience, Obama was able to give the go-ahead for a Navy SEAL team to move forward with the rescue of the captain, resulting in three dead pirates and more importantly, the safe return of Capt. Richard Phillips, according to Robert McFadden and Scott Shane in The New York Times article “In rescue of captain, Navy kills 3 pirates.”

The major opportunity for Obama to pursue foreign policy realism arrived in the form of the rapid escalation of international intervention in the Syrian Civil War. The key difference between Bush and Obama, however, is that Bush wasn’t trying to simultaneously close two wars that had been waging for more than a decade.

“Syria, for Obama, represented a slope potentially as slippery as Iraq,” Jeffrey Goldberg said in The Atlantic article “The Obama Doctrine.”

When Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s tyranny and reported gassing of Syrian citizens persisted, Obama authorized the CIA to train Syrian rebels but resisted calls for bombing the country.

Assad could possibly survive the attacks meant to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons and claim that he had successfully defied the U.S., something Obama was not willing to risk, according to Goldberg.

Obama directed the mission that killed Osama bin Laden, played a key role in reestablishing formal diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. and became the first president to visit Cuba since 1928.

Despite these achievements, Obama has failed to meet some goals he first set out to reach. Even with a Democratically controlled Congress in 2009, the president wasn’t able to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Later, Obama was barred from even transferring prisoners to fully capable Supermax prisons in the U.S., a move that violated his presidential powers in Article II of the Constitution, according to Gregory Craig and Cliff Sloan’s Washington Post article “The president doesn’t need Congress’s permission to close Guantanamo.”

In lieu of closing the prison, Obama had to resort to transferring detainees to prisons overseas. As of the most recent April 16 transfer, 80 detainees remain at the facility, and 26 of them have been approved and are waiting to be moved out, according to NBC News article “Nine Guantanamo Bay detainees transferred to Saudi Arabia: Pentagon.”


Pulling the country out of the Great Recession, Obama’s economic efforts have stimulated over 73 months of job growth that continues to be extended with each passing month, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Labor Blog, “Indicators point to a vibrant economy.”

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act has pushed the rate of uninsured Americans below 10 percent for the first time ever, according to Bess Evans’ article “Getting to 20 million: White House Champions of Change” on the White House’s blog page.

Further making his mark on the country’s history, Obama granted temporary legal status for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children, overhauled the background check system for gun purchases, instated The Every Student Succeeds Act to replace No Child Left Behind, and oversaw the buildup to the marriage equality ruling in 2015.

As the 2016 presidential primary dashes around yet another corner, so does Obama’s final year in office. While he has made many controversial decisions, so have most great past presidents. It will take time to be able to fully assess the impact that Obama had on the U.S. and the world at large, but those who already have secured their trust in him may already know.

Contributing writer for the Collegian. I’m a senior studying journalism and mass communications and working on minors in political science and music. I also manage digital operations as a communications fellow with the Kansas Democratic Party; I do not report on or write about anything political unless it shows up in the opinion section.