Maria Martinez Romero | SIPA Class of 2018
Obama campaigned on a platform of “Hope” and “Yes We Can.” Now it’s time to determine if we actually “could” and if the hope was realistic.
One of his most popular reforms was the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, best known as Obamacare. This legislation a victory for the rights of American healthcare users. For Obama, it was a victory in the face of fierce Republican opposition, which continues unabated to this day.
Obamacare has already provided insurance to 90% of Americans who previously did not have health insurance. It was a vital step towards ending inequality, especially at a time when wealth gaps are increasing.
Obama also passed the Education Reconciliation act, which aimed to give greater opportunities to low-income undergraduates. Though it may have helped many students, the vast majority of American students still have to carry the burden of thousands of dollars in college loans. The United states can be proud of having 8 of the 10 most prestigious universities in the world, according to the 2016 National Taiwan University Ranking. However, the American educational system is far from perfect, as it lags far behind free public education in EU member states.
Unlike his predecessors, Obama placed emphasis on battling climate change. In 2015, the US and China agreed to the Paris Agreement, a major advance in the fight against climate change, especially since they are the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.
Concurrent to environmental policy progress, the American economy also grew. Obama inherited a financial catastrophe after the real estate bubble burst, so the fact that the American economy is headed in a positive direction is no small achievement.
However, economic growth hasn’t benefited all Americans. While many larger companies are on the rise, low-income families in the rural regions of the US lost out. Despair and frustration have taken over and rural hospitality has somewhat given way to populism and xenophobia.
In 2015, gay marriage became legalized throughout the United States. Obama, the first sitting US president to openly support marriage equality, deserves much credit for pushing this initiative.
Obama presented himself well to the international arena. He came across as a highly intelligent man, who also loves his family. His predecessor George W. Bush set the bar low for international perception of the individual serving in the White House. However, even with this low bar, Obama went above and beyond in repairing the international image of America.
Eight years later, Obama did not match the lofty rhetoric of hope and yes we can that he used in the 2008 elections. At the same time, he did achieve a wide variety of different legislation, some of which has helped and will continue to positively effect the American people as a whole.