By Michael Weigel
About eight years ago, I was a homeschooled student who had very little interest in politics or civic affairs. My mother suggested that since an important politician was coming to Indianapolis we should take a day to go see him, and, eager to get out of a test, I agreed. Though many of the finer points of his speech were lost in my middle school brain, his message of hope, change and unity resonated with me.
In many ways, seeing Barack Obama on the 2008 campaign trail was my first major exposure to the world of politics. Given that I now am a political science major and vice president of College Democrats here on campus, it seems fair to say that Obama was inspirational to me to some degree.
Now, eight years later, as his presidency draws to a close, hundreds of pieces like mine are being written all over the country about the importance of Barack Obama and the legacy that he’s left. At the risk of sounding overly-biased because of my political views, I firmly believe that Obama has been a good president. What follows is an inexhaustive list of the accomplishments and progressions we’ve seen during his administration:
• Passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act, which, despite continued controversy, has provided health insurance for 20 million Americans who were previously uninsured.
• An economic recovery that has seen unemployment steadily drop since its 2008 peak, the salvation of the US automotive industry, and legislation designed to prevent investment bankers from a similar meltdown.
• The end of the Iraq war.
• An agenda on environmental policy that has been both pragmatic and future-thinking, including increased fuel efficiency standards, more stringent EPA regulations for dirtier power plants, and involvement with the UN Paris Agreement in 2016.
• Steady budget increases for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
• Reform of how federal grants for student loans are issued.
• Sanctions that caused the nation of Iran to voluntarily surrender their nuclear program.
• A swift end to the controversial torture techniques used by the Bush administration during the height of the War on Terror.
I’m not so naive as to believe that every action taken by Barack Obama was perfect and above reproach; his administration has sharply increased both domestic surveillance and seemingly indiscriminate drone strikes abroad, and portions of the Middle East continue to be enveloped in war and destruction. But on the whole, this man has managed to accomplish many great things for the US while maintaining his own personal integrity and inherent kindness.
Despite being the target of many conspiracy theories and borderline-racist attacks since taking office, only the most ardent of partisans would dispute that he has maintained a positive, professional and presidential image while genuinely trying his best to represent the interests of all Americans.
Additionally, I’m almost certain that I wasn’t the only one who had the chance to be inspired by the ascension of Barack Obama over the past eight years. A whole generation of young people will have seen his example and been encouraged to enter the political process. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the coming decades, Obama becomes a sort of Reagan for the left: a sterling example of leadership and principle that is held in a certain degree of reverence by young Democrats everywhere.
Michael is a junior political science major Indianapolis, Indiana.