A president’s legacy: Obama’s accomplishments and mistakes

President Barack Obama announced a plan on Friday, January 9 during a speech at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville. "America's College Promise" will provide free community college education across the country if approved by Congress. (Greg French/MTSU Sidelines)

Photo by Greg French / Sidelines Archive

As Donald Trump’s claim to power has officially begun, Barack Obama’s has ended after eight years of service. Within that time, Americans have seen war, acts of terrorism and the end of an enormous financial crisis. Through all of this, Obama served with varying results and support. The ups and downs of a presidency can be drastic, as can the actual results. Here is a look at some of the greatest accomplishments and mistakes of President Barack Obama.


American Recovery and Reinvestment Act– The 2008 Housing Crisis caused financial grief to many American families stricken with unstable loans and faulty investments. Unemployment almost doubled within a couple years, and the foreclosure rate skyrocketed to around 81% within the year. Fortunately for many in need, the Obama administration acted in under 30 days of gaining power. The bill was an attempt to jumpstart the economy through government spending and investing in infrastructure and unemployment insurance. The legislation played a key role in reducing unemployment and providing the economy with a stable foundation in the years to come.

The Affordable Care Act– This piece of legislation is in the news once again as newly inaugurated President Donald Trump is attempting to remove Obama’s labor of love. This long-reaching healthcare system was put in place by the Obama administration in March of 2010. Since that year, The Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare” has provided insurance to around 20 million people in America. Along with the massive amount of people who have been insured, the Affordable Care Act has been able to reach and insure a record amount of young people from ages 19 to 25.

Expansion of gay rights– In June of 2015, men and women of all sexual orientations were officially provided with the right to marry who they choose. The landmark Obergefell v. Hodges case ended with the decision to make same-sex marriage legal in all states, and Obama strongly advocated for this expansion. Previously, Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Act of 2010, which allowed gay men and women to be open about their sexual orientation while serving in the military. After signing the bill into law, Obama stated, “For we are not a nation that says, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ We are a nation that says, ‘Out of many, we are one.”Obama also signed a bill into law that guaranteed the persecution of parties involved in LGBT+ hate crimes. Titled the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the legislation allowed LGBT+ hate crimes to be included in the federal hate crime law and advanced protection for those in the LGBT+ community.


Executive Orders and Gridlock– Obama has often been criticized for his use of executive orders while holding office. During his presidency, bi-partisan support was few and far between, as government control was constantly split. Obama’s use of executive orders was not outside his presidential powers, but some critics have declared his actions to be immoral or even unconstitutional. His bypass of Republican gridlock has caused a distrust between people and president. In the first seven years of President Obama’s career, 560 major regulations were finalized, many of which would not be possible without executive orders.

NSA Scandal– The uncovered overreach of the National Security Agency was no Watergate, but it did leave many Americans feeling that their trust had been broken and their privacy breached. When the scandal came to light in June of 2013, it was revealed that the government had been collecting information on the majority of telephone calls placed by everyday citizens. Along with the data mining of telephone calls, it was discovered by The Guardian and The Washington Post that the NSA had been using a program called PRISM, which allowed members to have access to the online activities of millions of people internationally. Obama received a plethora of criticism for this security misstep since the data mining was not made clear to the American people. Obama spoke openly on the Friday after the information release, stating, “My assessment and my team’s assessment was that they help us prevent terrorist attacks. And the modest encroachments on privacy that are involved in getting phone numbers or duration without a name attached and without looking at content, that on net it was worth us doing.”

Pardoning Manning– Obama is hardly the first president to pardon a prisoner on their way out of office, but Chelsea Manning was certainly a surprise. It was one of the last major actions that the eight-year president took while in office, and Obama’s motivations for the last-minute commute are unclear. Manning’s sentence has been reduced from the initial 35 years to seven years. Previously known as Bradley Manning, the United States Army soldier stole and divulged thousands of classified documents during service. The information was leaked to WikiLeaks and was then distributed. The entire event was an oddly controversial note for Obama to end a presidential career on, and many officials were split on whether the decision was just.

This is an opinion, written from the perspective of the writer and does not reflect the views of Sidelines or MTSU.

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To contact Editor-in-Chief Sarah Grace Taylor, email editor@mtsusidelines.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    May 17, 2017

    I’ll start by saying that your initial comment of Barak Obama is a bit biased. Former President Barak Obama’s tenure as president was honestly one of the greatest that we’ve seen. The acts he put into place have changed the scope of American history for years to come. Yes the
    American people have witnessed war but America has been in a war for the majority of her life since conception. Acts such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment act, completely turned our economy around. After Clinton’s tenure as President we were in a surplus, after Bush’s time as president we were in a deficit, and although we are still in debt the amount owed is much less, many Americans have jobs, people like me have affordable health care. He let the gays roam free to do whatever it is that they do, although I don’t necessarily agree with the whole gay thing I do see why he did it. They should have rights, but I don’t see how gay rights are synonymous to civil rights at all. That’s just me though.
    I think it’s a bit of a reach to call the use of executive orders a mistake. Obama rarely got support for the legislative branch, and considering that Trump has nonchalantly thrown around executive orders I’ sure we can pardon his. As far as the NSA scandal is concerned, people please hear me when I say this, you haven’t had privacy since the Regan era, it’s not going to change and honestly it probably never will. I think it’s time we see past our own personal vendettas and acknowledge this man and his family for the amount of class and honor that they brought to the White House. “Twice as good”, is a term that all African American’s know too well and the Obama administration was just that.

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