To be very honest, I didn’t really care for Barack Obama when I first heard about him in 2008. He sounded like an inexperienced politician simply riding on a wave of political disenchantment, and the message of “change” and “hope” just seemed superficial to me. As the 2008 election neared, however, I started realizing that our country was really at a low point, and we desperately needed a man like Barack Obama. After eight years of a domestic policy that favored the most privileged and a foreign policy that created more enemies than friends, the country seemed to have lost its most admirable values. No conventional politician could reinvigorate those values because it required not just an expertise in policy, but a unique ability to connect with people, specifically younger voters. Only Barack Obama could do that. He made young people feel a sense of inspiration and investment in the country that was badly needed at the time.
Unlike fairy tale endings, reality obviously had to strike, and the Obama that seemed like he could slow the rising seas and stave away any harm that afflicted the American people all of a sudden appeared fallible. It would be unfair though to compare Candidate Obama to President Obama. Both individuals fulfilled the roles they needed to at the given time.
President Obama embraced the realism needed during the worst economic crisis in our lifetime. Within the first 30 days of taking office, he passed a $787 billion bill to rejuvenate the economy, which ended up being 50 percent greater in value (adjusted for inflation) than all of FDR’s New Deal policies combined. If Obama’s presidency had ended right there, he would have already accomplished more domestically than every other modern president. What other president during their entire tenure has been able to start a renewable energy culture from scratch, encourage energy efficiency in all sectors, promote a new era of mass transportation, modernize the health care system, allocate unprecedented amounts of money for research, implement one of the largest middle class tax cuts, transform schools to cope with the 21st century, and provide short term financial relief for the unemployed? All of this, in one bill? And yes, I’m talking about the stimulus bill that even President Obama no longer dares to call by name. The list of policy accomplishments in Obama’s first term, both in domestic and foreign policy, are endless.
But I have to be honest. I am not 100 percent satisfied with all the choices President Obama made in his first term. Being an environmentalist, I expected him to tackle climate change head on, specifically in the case of the Keystone XL pipeline. Quite often I felt like what he said was based more on polling data than what the American people had to hear. Despite all this, however, behind the scenes, this president stood by every policy commitment he made to the American people. Being the president of the United States is not easy, especially in a political climate in which the opposition has never been more united behind the cause of making sure the president fails.
As Obama made his final campaign stop in Iowa last night returning to the place he first launched his presidential campaign, I felt a surge of nostalgia of my former cynical self that scoffed at his lofty rhetoric and promises of change. Four years later, the record speaks for itself. This man does what he says. And above all, no matter what vitriolic attacks have been hurled at him ranging from his birthplace to his race to his faith, he never once faltered or lost his composure. This is the mark of a truly remarkable individual.
I am proud to call Barack Obama my president, and I hope that when you turn out at the polls today, you feel the same way.
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