After eight years of government led by the Republican George W. Bush, the American people wanted a change. Having gone through one of the worst moments in its history – the 9/11 attacks – which would lead to two foreign wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and facing a major recession, the U.S. was in need of an inspirational speech. That’s when Barack Obama, a young Democratic senator, announced his candidacy. Immersed in constant racial conflict, Obama’s origins turned into an opportunity – the opportunity to be the first African-American president – instead of an inconvenience. With a career unstoppably on the rise, he won the Democratic primaries against Hillary Clinton, and after that, the presidential election in 2008 against John McCain. His campaign slogan, “Yes We Can,” seemed premonitory, but also unreal.
Obama, who was committed to social and environmental issues and to a conciliatory attitude, began his term with one of the highest popularity ratings ever, which even led to his winning the Nobel Peace Prize some months after entering the White House. But with the high expectations came frustration from unfulfilled promises, which resulted in him leaving the Oval Office with a questionable record after eight years as president, and with the Republicans in control of both houses of Congress during his last years.
During his first term, he achieved some of his goals, such as bringing the troops in Iraq home, enacting his controversial health care reform known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” and finding and killing the most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, which closed a wound that had been open since 2001. Ending torture, shutting down the prison at Guantanamo Bay and greater control over arms sales were some of his other promises; he couldn’t fulfill the latter two.
He undertook banking reform and improved the economy, reducing unemployment to 5 percent, but the white middle class felt wronged and left out. Widespread discomfort served as a springboard for Donald Trump.
Obama’s foreign policy was highly criticized due to agreements such as the one with Iran, from which his successor withdrew, his rapprochement with China, his lack of firmness regarding Bashar Assad, and his meddling in Libya, a country still immersed in chaos since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi.
Obama attempted to rule the country by rejecting arrogance and building bridges instead, a policy which was regarded by many as a loss of international influence. Many considered him a good president, yet an equal number questioned him. Trump’s performance is making Obama great.
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