Yes We Can. Yes We Did.

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Yes We Can. Yes We Did.

Ryan Pfingst, World Page Editor

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While watching President Donald Trump’s inauguration last month, one could not help but be reminded of that bitter-cold January day in 2009, as the country watched our first African-American president get sworn into office, having no idea what the next eight years would have in store. Many were filled with so much hope due to the promise of  change, a promise that President Obama undoubtedly delivered on. With achievements such as the Affordable Care Act, re-establishing relations with Cuba, ending the war in Iraq, and so many others, President Obama has certainly left his mark on the country.

The Affordable Care Act, informally known as ObamaCare, although widely contested, has caused the rate of uninsured Americans to drop below 10% for the first time in history, which is something to celebrate. Inheriting the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, Obama turned the economy around. In 2009, the unemployment rate peaked at 10%. In 2016, it was 4.9%, which is over a 50% decrease during his time in office.

He officially ended the war in Iraq, bringing tens of thousands of troops home to their families. He also reduced the number of troops in Afghanistan from 99,800 in 2011 to 8,730 in 2016. On May 2, 2011, Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, was killed, thanks to Obama’s efforts to track him down. The Iran Nuclear Deal, while controversial, fulfilled its purpose in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  

However, what I will miss most about his presidency is not his policies or legislative achievements, but him. President Obama was filled with such class and dignity, and yet he wasn’t afraid to have some fun and make us laugh. His intelligence is undeniable, and his character is truly admirable. He was elected to the highest office in the free-world, but remained down-to-earth and his humility never faltered.

There are many moments when he, himself, made an impression on me, rather than his work, such as when he sang Amazing Grace during a eulogy for a pastor who was killed in the Charleston shooting in 2015, when he slow jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon, or mic-dropped at his final White House Correspondents’ Dinner back in April with those unforgettable words, “Obama out.” He remained on a level far above us, while somehow still making himself relate-able to the average person.

Of course, one cannot discuss the impact of Obama’s presidency without discussing the impact of his wife, Michelle. With degrees from both Harvard and Princeton, she is one of the most distinguished first ladies in United States history. She fought for education, especially for girls, combated child obesity through her Let’s Move! initiative, and inspired young people to explore higher education through her Reach Higher program. She spoke with candor and vigor about the topics that were most important to her, and never backed down. When speaking directly to Michelle during his farewell address, President Obama stated, “You have made me proud, and you have made the country proud.” Nothing could be more true.

Together, the two of them provided the perfect example of what a happy, loving marriage looks like, and when so many children don’t have that in their own lives, that is extremely important. They demonstrated that with integrity, kindness, and dedication you are able to accomplish so much more than when you act with hatefulness and immaturity, as some other people in the spotlight act. Michelle Obama’s proclamation at the DNC last summer, “When they go low, we go high,” is something that will resonate with thousands of people, and has become especially relevant now that our new President has taken office.

Both of them set an amazing example for the impressionable younger generations, whom they never forgot. President Obama inspired the younger generations to get involved in politics, and vote. Being the first president to create a twitter account, he and Michelle made solid efforts to interact with the youth, in ways that no other president in the past has done. The millennials get a bad rap for being lazy and selfish, among other traits, but President Obama never lost faith in them, describing them as “unselfish, altruistic, creative, and patriotic,” in his Farewell Address. Because he made such an effort to connect with the younger generations, the future will be in better hands.

These past eight years have been filled with ups and downs, but one word sums up his presidency the best, and that word is unforgettable. The changes that occurred during these past eight years, from the Affordable Care Act to the legalization of same-sex marriage in all 50 states, have been truly remarkable. President Obama, thank you for all that you have done for this country, your presidency has truly been unforgettable.  

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Yes We Can. Yes We Did.