Earth & Conservation

What Has Obama Accomplished As President?

From the Oval Office to social media, President Obama sparked a lot of change during his two terms. But did he keep his promises?

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On Tuesday, January 12, President Obama will deliver his final State of the Union Address. Traditionally, presidents use the opportunity to outline major policy proposals and priorities that will dictate the year ahead. Yet, in his final year in office, President Obama will not be doing such, according to The New York Times. Reports indicate that President Obama will instead paint a positive picture of the U.S., highlighting positive trends in American society, and going against the dim portrayal that's cast by many of the 2016 presidential hopefuls. In an election year, it's a major opportunity to set the tone as the campaign season ramps up through caucuses and primaries.

So what has President Obama accomplished in his two terms? In terms of policy, he signed legislation that brought the U.S. back from the brink of financial ruin. When he took office in 2009, the country was facing the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression. President Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into law, an emergency measure to create jobs and funnel funds toward education, renewable energy, infrastructure, and other areas impacted by the Great Recession. In a matter of weeks, the unemployment rate started to decrease and, by 2012, the stimulus package was creating an average of 1.6 million jobs per year.

A year later, in 2010, President Obama enacted the Affordable Care Act, the largest health care reform undertaken by the government since Medicare. It was championed by many progressives, but the law endured (and continues to endure) a great deal of criticism. The website built for people to enroll in health insurance had major issues. Republicans in Congress have largely been against "Obamacare" since day one and attempting to repeal it some 50 times.

In foreign policy, President Obama inherited two ongoing military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rising levels of violence and instability in the area have prevented the Obama administration from issuing a complete withdrawal of troops. His successor will inevitably inherit the War on Terror in some capacity. In 2011, President Obama oversaw the mission to locate, track, and kill al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. More recently, the administration, along with five other countries, reached a landmark accord that prevents Iran from developing its own nuclear weapon. President Obama also committed the U.S. to significant decreases in carbon emissions, joining nearly every other country in a landmark climate deal reached last year in Paris.

Learn More:

The Obama Report Card: Best And Worst (npr.org)
"Arguably, Barack Obama is the best president in American history, says Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, because Obama "has managed to do what no African-American ... has ever been able to accomplish - win the White House and then be re-elected handily[...]"

Barack Obama's Acceptance Speech (nytimes.com)
"The following is the transcript of Senator Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions."

The Historic Deal that Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon (whitehouse.gov)
"The Iran Deal blocks the four pathways to a nuclear weapon."

Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris (nytimes.com)
"With the sudden bang of a gavel Saturday night, representatives of 195 nations reached a landmark accord that will, for the first time, commit nearly every country to lowering planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions to help stave off the most drastic effects of climate change."