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President Barack H. Obama will go down in history as one of the greatest presidents in US history. A patient and thoughtful president, a man of courage, who endured unprecedented obstructionism from Republicans but never quit and at the end of his presidency was beloved by a majority of Americans and respected across the world. Some of his detractors might try to paint a false narrative that Obama did nothing, but their falsehood would never stand the test of reality. The fact is Obama accomplished a lot in 8 years as president.

As we grapple with the unpredictable and erratic presidency of Donald Trump and what it means to the future of America, it’s important to look back at the presidency of Barack Obama.

A charismatic orator

President Obama first came to prominence in 2004 in an optimistic keynote speech at the DNC in support of the presidential candidacy of John Kerry and John Edward. Obama, then a state senator and senatorial candidate from Illinois, gave a speech that, now in retrospect, is viewed as either naive or unrealistically optimistic. The speech bore one of the most famous lines in his political career “there is not a liberal America or a conservative America, there’s the United States of America. There is no a black America and a White America and a Latino America and an Asian America, there’s the United States of America.” His powerful voice and perfect oratory brought the crowd to its feet and sparked talks of him becoming president someday. It didn’t long. Obama went on to beat Republican Alan Keyes in the Illinois senate race giving him the necessary stature needed to propel him toward the presidency.

A shining example

After winning the presidential election in 2008 and making history as the first African American President in US history, a lot was expected from Obama. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, gave young men and women of color a shining example that they can achieve anything including becoming the president of the United States. The powerful symbolism of the United States having an African American President cannot be bought, taught or inherited. It’s unique and exceptional. His dignified service to the country as Commander-in-Chief, his uplifting and positive message, his thoughtfulness, intellect, intelligence and maturity in leadership is second to none. Obama led our nation with dignity. He remained scandal-free throughout his presidency, he sought fairness for all aggressively, he was inclusive and cool. When Obama went on foreign trips, there was no doubt he would represent our country well. That is why he is respected across the globe.

A man of courage

Things did not come easy for Obama, but he never gave up. The son of a Kenyan father and a white American mother was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He had to fight, he fought against great odds to serve his community in Chicago as a community organizer. He learned a lot from that experience but one of the key lessons he learned was being a man of the people. A champion of the poor and he had their backs.

He arrived in Washington a superstar among senators, and the fifth black senator ever elected to the US senate. With every trial, he rose to occasion, head higher and even more dignified. When he was smeared as sympathetic to the preachings of his former pastor Jeremiah Wright, Obama stood in front of a podium in Philadelphia and gave what people call the most comprehensive race speech in US history, in the same league with greats such as Martin Luther King Jr.

As president, he faced a lot of challenges. On day one in the office he was confronted by worst recession in US history since depression in the FDR era. The auto industry was at risk of total collapse. The economy was on the brink of collapse and people were losing their retirement and jobs in droves. According to reports, the economy was losing 700,000 jobs a month. He came in and passed the stimulus package, a bold move that faced a lot of opposition but saved the auto industry and stopped an economic collapse.

Despite reaching out to Republicans, Obama faced a lot of obstructionism from Republican leaders. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was quoted as saying his primary mission was to make Obama a one-term president.  His detractors, such as Trump, questioned his citizenship and intellect. But he bounced back and dealt with one of the most vicious attacks on his character with grace and humor, mercilessly mocking Trump at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

A careful and decisive leader

On the same day Obama was mercilessly mocking Trump for his superiority-complex at the White House Correspondents Dinner, Obama had authorized Seal Team Six, one of the most elite US forces to raid a compound in Pakistan killing 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. The move was greeted with celebration around the US, but some in the conservative circles attempted to take away credit from him. Saying he does not deserve credit, rather the soldiers should be given all the credit. Well, they deserve all the credit for their heroic execution and professionalism in accomplishing the mission but saying the Commander-in-Chief does not deserve credit for make a good judgement call is akin to saying a coach does not deserve credit for his team’s success. Obama’s detractors argument was also very bizarre because they did not factor in the delicate nature of the order Obama gave. Imagine if the mission had gone bad and the soldiers were either killed or captured? Would they have blamed the soldiers for going in the first place? Your guess is as good as mine. Fox News’ host of self-titled conservative paranoia opinion show Sean Hannity and one of Trump’s most vocal supporter in the media, would have bust a nut calling for Obama’s impeachment.

Obama cares

The health care reform debate tested Obama. This was a make or break initiative. His legacy was on the line. The task was gigantic and the opposition was loud, well-funded and boisterous. But failure was not an option and nobody understood that better than Obama. It was reported wide that when the going got tough, his aides, including his then Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel encouraged him to give it up. He listened to opposing views but made a decision for the greater good of the country. This was not an easy task and he fought hard, leading the charge against a relentless opposition and with tepid public support from timid Democrats. In the end, after decades and numerous presidents trying to pass healthcare reform and failing, Obama signed Affordable Care Act on March 23, 2010 in front of cheering and perhaps relieved supporters and Vice President Joe Biden who was overheard by a hot mic describing the achievement as a big fucking deal. Obamacare went on to survive several attempts of repeal. Republicans voted more than 50 times to repeal the law. It also survived two challenges of its constitutionality in the Supreme Court and a rough launch its Website crashed because it could not handle the online traffic. In the end, Obamacare went on the sign up more than 20 million Americans, provided coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions, removed caps on insurance coverage among other benefits. The law, however, remained contentious. Detractors argued that it was a job killer and took issue with a statement Obama made that those who liked their doctors or insurance companies would keep them. They, however, could not come up a credible alternative and instead insisted on repeal.

We can all agree that Obamacare is not perfect, but it is a net positive. It is therefore very baffling how Republicans, led by Trump have taken an absolutist approach to end it and risk hurting Americans depending on the law for their healthcare.

On Jan 23, Trump signed an ambiguous Executive Order, telling regulators to ease enforcement and regulations of Affordable Care Act provisions. The move is yet another example of Trump and Republicans moving toward dismantling healthcare for more than 20 million Americans.

Unfinished business

Obama accomplished a lot in his two-term presidency against great odds. He ended the war in Iraq and brought the troops home, saved the country from an economic collapse and reduced unemployment to less than 5 percent, he put in place regulations to protect the environment and negotiated a deal to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

But despite his success, he was unable to close the Guantanamo Bay prison that is a symbol of torture and a blight on American human rights standing. He was also unable to solve the gun violence crisis that have claimed many lives around the country including elementary school children killed by a mass murderer in Connecticut.

While these failures are glaring, it was not for lack of trying. He gave it his best shot and worked hard toward the goals until the end of his presidency. For that we say thank you.

President Barack Hussein Obama leaves office with his head high. He made us proud and has left behind a solid legacy of achievement some enumerated here.

President Obama, farewell to you and your family. You did great. You made us proud.

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