President Obama and his family are preparing to ditch the White House and leave the presidency behind next week. To some readers this is a symphony with crashing cymbals. To me it’s a dirge.
Looking back over the last eight years I’m reminded that I didn’t get everything I wanted from this administration, yet I’m proud to celebrate my votes for this accomplished man and his ideas.
The administration was more shrouded and secretive than I would have liked, but that seems to reflect the personality of POTUS. Mr. Obama was close to the vest with much of what he did. He didn’t often reach out beyond the walls of the White House to try and garner support for his projects. He used his oratory to lay out the facts and reasoning, but could not bring himself to schmooze with the members of Congress. They, in turn, kept him at arm’s length as much as possible.
Consequently, he didn’t change a lot of minds or sway a lot of citizens into his corner beyond those of us for whom the oratory of facts and solid reasoning were enough. His favorable ratings are high; pushing 60%, about nine points lower than when he came to office–still a lot higher than current numbers for his replacement. Mr. Trump is up nine points to 46% in a recent poll. This is odd as the raggedy, worn out president generally has lower popularity than the shiny, new hope for the next Oval Office sitter. But, this isn’t politics as usual.
Most of the country thinks President Obama did a good job and I agree. I’m confident that with time and perspective, history will enhance the status of this administration to even greater heights, possibly one of the highest.
Joe Klein of Time magazine recently wrote that Barack Obama’s influence on American culture was “subtle but substantial.” I think that is a fair assessment. He didn’t lead parades when accomplishments were made. He let the acts and the results speak for themselves.
He got the Lilly Ledbetter Act passed nine days into his tenure. That act set the tone for what was to come. It was a needed step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done that didn’t get finished. The act allows time for underpaid employees to sue for their rightfully equal wage, but falls short of bringing equal pay for equal service as an American standard. The moderate-progressive branch of the Democratic Party, to which Mr. Obama belongs, believes in incremental steps toward the ultimate goal. The far right and far left of both parties get more agitated and impatient and try for big sweeping change. That is usually not a Happy Meal the public is capable of consuming at one sitting. Alas, the problem with incremental change, like we have found with the 100 years of step-by-step legislation it took from the Emancipation Proclamation to the voting and civil rights acts of the Sixties, takes time. That particular job isn’t done yet. Changing the law is one step, but changing sensibilities is quite another. We’re still a work in progress.
There is a tremendous body of work that the president has accomplished. The Affordable Care Act is still a hot button, but it’s another great start to fixing a gigantic American inequity. His work not only kept America out of a depression, it spilled over into other countries and helped save the world from the same fate. America’s image abroad is more agreeable. 10 of 15 countries report a more favorable attitude toward America over the last eight years, up as much as 25%. The Consumer Protection Act of 2010 that included the establishment of the Consumer Protection Board has given millions of Americans a forum to challenge huge corporations when they feel cheated. Previously, an individual taking on a big company for wrongful acts was laughable in the boardrooms–now, not so much.
I’ll leave it to you to look further into this if you are so inclined. Due to limited space, I’ve left out any mention of civil rights that have enhanced the lives of minority groups, focusing light on criminal justice reform, and tons of assistance for middle Americans that have been silently put into effect, including decreasing unemployment and rising wages that have been stagnant for far too long.
This is where the subtleness of President Obama does not do his strategic and insightful work justice. He refuses to take the victory lap.
There is just enough room left for me to finish by thanking the president and his fabulous family for their sublime efforts as role models. We can all aspire to any of the six–I’m including Bo and Sunny. If we could live our lives with the integrity, grace, and restraint that we’ve seen emanating from the White House over the last eight years our country would be one huge, Mother-May-I, giant step closer to being exactly the kind of country we like to envision.
Mahalo, Mr. President.