On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, making history as our country’s first African American president. This significant milestone was only the beginning of many accomplishments throughout his two terms. To commemorate his time in office, The Gavel is here to break down some of Obama’s greatest—and often controversial—achievements.
When President Obama took office during the Great Recession, he almost immediately signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aimed at reviving the U.S. economy. This bill devoted $787 billion to creating and saving jobs, easing financial strains on struggling Americans, and promoting economic recovery. The act, commonly referred to as “The Stimulus,” faced mixed reviews both from Congress and the American public. Still, Obama felt strongly about its importance, saying, “I have every confidence that if we are willing to continue doing the critical work that must be done—by each of us, by all of us—then we will leave this struggling economy behind us, and come out on the other side, more prosperous as a people.”
According to the National Public Radio, Obama’s recovery of the economy has been slow but extremely steady. In his last month in office, the unemployment rate is at 4.7%, down from a high of 10% in 2009. This month also marks the 75th month straight of job growth, with an average of 109,000 jobs created per month.
In 2010, President Obama enacted the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is intended to provide quality, affordable healthcare for all Americans, improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare, and promote public health. The enactment of Obamacare has certainly created controversy among the American public, but it has also contributed greatly to more conversation about accessible, available healthcare in our country.
Under Obama’s administration, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed the Clean Power Plan, an important step in reducing carbon pollution from power plants and addressing climate change. President Obama also committed the United States to the Paris Climate Deal, the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement. This commitment shows solidarity between nations to reduce their carbon footprints and increase environmental awareness.
Deputy National Security Advisor Benjamin Rhodes has described Obama’s main foreign policy goal as one of engagement. The Obama administration made a consistent effort to improve diplomatic relations with nations like Cuba with the belief that engagement would improve human rights conditions in these countries. The administration also made it a point to end U.S. combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and reach an agreement with Iran on their nuclear programs.
Throughout President Obama’s eight years in office, he made significant contributions to lessening the social inequality gap, and he spoke strongly about equality under the law. In 2009, Obama signed his first bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, into law, making it easier for Americans to challenge unequal pay on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age religion, or disability.
In that same year, President Obama also signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, making it a federal crime to assault an individual based on his or her sexual orientation or gender identity. President Obama stated that this measure would “help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are.” President Obama also firmly supported the federal recognition of same-sex marriage and repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which barred openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people from military service.
More recently, President Obama launched an initiative known as My Brother’s Keeper to address opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. This initiative is focused on keeping kids on track and giving young people the resources they need to reach their full potential.
Since his inauguration in 2009, President Obama has seen much tragedy, but his legacy is one of hope. In his farewell address, President Obama focused not on his tangible achievements, but on the attitude of the American people, stating, “I’m asking you to believe—not in my ability to bring about change, but in yours.”