Thank you, Mr. President

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Arielle Kirven '17

President Donald J. Trump took the oath of office surrounded by family, friends, and fellow Americans in the nation’s capital January 20 but as we look ahead towards the next four years, it would be remiss to overlook the contributions and efforts of the forty-fourth Commander-in-Chief, President Barack Obama.
In 2004, President Obama burst onto the scene fresh from the city of Chicago. When former Massachusetts Senator Mr. John Kerry asked the Illinois state senator to deliver the keynote of the Democratic Convention, his name was unknown to most Americans, according to millercenter.org.
His most well-known quote from the speech reads, “Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America,” according to millercenter.org. In the face of extreme partisanship, his important message prevailed in the spirit of a quintessentially American adage, initially adopted in 1776. “E Pluribus Unum,” meaning “Out of many, one.” 

Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office as the 44th president of the United States of America. Courtesy of Reuters.
Barack Obama takes the Oath of Office as the 44th president of the United States of America.
Courtesy of Reuters.

To the surprise of many, his 2004 Democratic Convention keynote address cemented his legacy. “Barack Obama,” the name slipped off the tongue uneasily. It was foreign, and most campaign managers refused to believe in a presidential victory involving the first Black President, but specifically one with an unlikely name. After winning the United States Senate seat for Illinois, he spent a few years serving “the land of Lincoln,” and then decided to run for the highest office in the nation, the Presidency.
The often overlooked, first-term Senator announced his candidacy in the face of fierce competition from then Senator and former First Lady Mrs. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and former Senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee Mr. John Edwards, according to millercenter.org. Yet, instead of forfeiting the fight, Mr. Obama drew inspiration from the greatest leaders of American history.
Announcing his presidential candidacy in front of the Old State House in Springfield, Illinois, where President Abraham Lincoln gave his famous “house divided” speech in 1858, Mr. Obama allowed both the setting and his words to emphasize the campaign platform of hope and change.
With the instantly recognizable slogan, “Yes, we can,” he did not only communicate his message to the most marginalized members of society, but also to an entire country recovering from the threats of terrorism, two ravaging wars overseas, and an economic crisis that shook the nation to its core. Traveling all fifty states, Mr. Obama triumphed as the 2008 Democratic nominee and later prevailed in the Electoral College against Arizona Senator and Republican nominee Mr. John McCain in a margin of 365 to 173, according to millercenter.org.
When President Obama entered the Oval Office, he inherited a nation suffering from the greatest economic downturn since the time of the Great Depression, according to abcnews.com. Thus, his cabinet was tasked with healing the struggling nation. 
In January of 2009, the unemployment rate was at 7.8 percent and continued to climb toward ten percent until 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At the end of 2008, The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 7449.38 losing half of its value, according to dowjonesclose.com. In addition, the hemorrhaging of American jobs accelerated at the end of 2008, bringing the year’s total job losses to 2.6 million; the highest level in more than six decades, according to CNN.
Within the first one hundred days, the new President achieved his first legislative success with the passage of an $800 billion economic-stimulus package: the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The package aimed to allocate grants to state governments, additional funds for infrastructure, and tax cuts for middle class citizens, according to millercenter.org. Later, the Congressional Budget Office issued a positive report stating that the ARRA saved as many as 2.9 million American jobs.
In addition, Mr. Obama initially supported President George W. Bush’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), a $700-billion initiative to rescue major banks through lending money to keep their doors open. But he also directed some of the TARP funds toward industry leaders such as General Motors and Chrysler in an emergency effort to protect the automobile industry from bankruptcy.
And although the economy set the stage for the “Obama Years,” history will remember the President for his steadfast commitment to significant albeit controversial healthcare reform. Passed on March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare, attempts to extend health coverage to each American citizen and imposes tax penalties on those who do not comply, according to millercenter.org.
While there are partisan debates over the issue of health care both on the Senate floor and communities around the country, the Census Bureau reports that the number of uninsured Americans has dropped from 16 percent in 2010 to less than nine percent today. That statistic represents a total decrease of 23 million people, according to abcnews.com.
In addition to inheriting a shattered economy and a broken healthcare system, Mr. Obama was handed the reins for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the longest period of wartime in the history of the United States. An original opponent of President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, President Obama subsequently removed 165,000 troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to former Vice President Joseph Biden’s twitter account. 
President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Clinton and other White House officials monitor the plan to terminate Osama Bin Laden in the Situation Room. Courtesy of time.com.
President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Clinton and other White House officials monitor the plan to terminate Osama Bin Laden in the Situation Room.
Courtesy of time.com.

Looking to heal America’s wounds in the post-9/11 era, he focused his counter-terrorism efforts towards catching Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
After months of surveillance, in April of 2011, Mr. Obama ordered two dozen navy seals to enact a helicopter raid on the Pakistani compound to terminate Bin-Laden, according to abcnews.com. This event was especially treasured by those of us in the New York Metropolitan area whose wounds from September 11th have not completely healed due to the shared loss of family, friends, and co-workers across the region.
After a divisive 2012 campaign against former Massachusetts Governor Mr. Mitt Romney, President Obama won re-election and then confronted an issue that came to the forefront of domestic politics: gun violence.
Sitting in the classrooms of Sacred Heart Greenwich, the horrors of Sandy Hook occurred only 45 minutes away within the borders of our own county. As the gunman killed 20 schoolchildren and six teachers in the second-deadliest school shooting in the United States, the Obama administration focused on gun legislation and pushed an agenda that incorporated “common-sense gun laws,” according to abcnews.com.
Contemporary gun violence also manifested itself in the form of racially-charged attacks. In the face of the nation’s first black President, the hope for a “so-called” post-racial America was shattered with a series of police shootings of unarmed people of color.
These incidences continued to take place across the country in Staten Island, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and most likely in each of the fifty states, according to the latimes.com. Although President Obama could have approached these issues with a biased perspective, he dealt with the violence and subsequent social movements as the President of the United States–a diverse multicultural community that composes America’s population of 320 million.
Today, many young people recognize Mr. Obama as a modern, thoughtful, and relevant leader. His network of support is clear among millennials and is evidenced on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. At the age of nine, I attended his first inauguration and descended upon Washington to witness a moment in history that many including a few of my family members never anticipated. 
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Congressman John Lewis, and others led thousands of marchers in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama. Courtesy of the New York Times.
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Congressman John Lewis, and others led thousands of marchers in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama.
Courtesy of the New York Times.

As a contributor to the Civil Rights movement, my grandmother sat, marched, and boycotted. She instilled in me an activist and political spirit that allows me to appreciate the impact of the Obama administration. As a young black female growing up in today’s society, it has been an honor to watch Mr. and Mrs. Obama lead with grace and humility for the past eight years. Not only were they extremely accessible, but they demonstrated to many Americans that anything is possible. 
In his Farewell Address January 10, President Obama acknowledged his greatest achievements and continued to speak the same words of hope and change in the place in which he began this great journey: Chicago. According to thehill.com, he also reminded us in his parting letter that the most important word in the American vocabulary is “we,” and that we all have a stake in the future of our nation.
While we take this time to revel in the accomplishments of the Obama White House, its definitive ending prompts us to ask an important question, “Are we better off now than we were eight years ago?”
The answer is Yes.
Not only “Yes,” but “Yes, we can. Yes, we did,” as Mr. Obama repeated in his Farewell Address, according to The New York Times.
According to the Bureau on Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is now 4.7 percent. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is now closing at approximately 20,000 points and, in his second term, the Obama administration has created 11.3 million jobs according to CNN.  
In addition, Barack Obama, the man behind the name that was at first so difficult to pronounce, led the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France. He shuttled the release of over 700 prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, brokered a critical nuclear deal with Iran, restored Cuban diplomatic ties, helped millions of young Mexican individuals to find a home in this country, and sang Amazing Grace in a Charleston Church to remember those gunned down by hate crimes, according to abcnews.com. 
Arielle Kirven '17
Arielle Kirven ’17

The evidence is clear.
As we step into a new era in American history, one after the first Commander-in-Chief of color, President Obama will turn over the keys to the forty-fifth President of our great union. Let us hope that in four years we can say the same thing that we are saying now:
Thank you, Mr. President.
– Arielle Kirven, Co-Editor-in-Chief