Make no mistake; when Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States on Jan. 20, 2009, history was made. After delivering some of the most powerful rhetoric this nation has heard since Dr. King, through the course of one of the most brilliant political campaigns in history, to become the first non-Caucasian to take the presidential oath since the existence of the United States — “historic” would be the only way to describe it.
And his timing could not have been better.
The nation was in the midst of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, engaged in two wars that it did not want and threatened by the defiance of Iran and North Korea. The people needed to see a way out of the horrific hole they had dug themselves into and they saw that in Obama. They rallied behind him by the tens of thousands, full of excitement and optimism and perhaps naively so, hearts drunk with messages of hope and motivating self-reliance. He was the people’s champion — an honest man with an incredible talent for inspiring the restless masses.
In his first four years, Obama would then go to fulfill many of the promises that he pledged during his campaign trail. He withdrew American troops from Iraq and focused his attention on Afghanistan. He passed massive economic and health care reforms. He revoked “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” publically supported gay marriage and killed Osama Bin Laden — all markings of a remarkable, groundbreaking administration.
Yet, despite his achievements, despite the overwhelming public support in ’08, it is common knowledge that re-election is an entirely different beast than vying for a first term. In his second bid for the presidency, Obama was facing a different America, a tired America, a grounded America — and America also saw a different Barack. His hair was greyer, his face was graver and his speeches were more fact and less euphemism.
He was no longer the crowd-favorite, the usurper, the rising star he was four years ago. He was now the weathered veteran, fighting desperately to defend himself from fearless challengers chipping away at every move and decision he’s ever made.
In an interview for Time magazine, Obama admitted that his re-election was a far greater victory for just this reason. “2012 may have been more satisfying a win than 2008,” he stated. “It was easy to think that maybe 2008 was the anomaly, and I think 2012 was an indication that, no, this is not an anomaly.” His greatest obstacle is now behind him.
The looming scrutiny and struggle for re-election has tried and ultimately failed to keep Obama from the Oval Office for a second term. He no longer has to worry about the polls or a slight decrease in his approval rating. He is sitting in that ever-elusive political sweet spot, a time and place in which he is able to set aside the biases and pressures of the Washington chess game and determine for himself what sort of legacy he wants to establish in the final four years of his presidency.
In the ensuing “Golden Years,” I expect the President to lay down a foundation that will continue to improve the state of this nation long after he steps down from his office. In the same interview with Time, he reveals that prison reform, global warming regulation and a commitment to education are among the many things he plans to accomplish in the final era of his administration.
President Obama has been an inspiration to the world, a model of honest leadership and government transparency. Our generation will remember him as the President who played pickup games, who hosted an AMA on Reddit, who slow-jammed the news with Jimmy Fallon.
However, only time will tell how he will be remembered by generations to follow.
Ben Hong is a third-year biological sciences/pre-med major. He can be reached at email@example.com.