First elected President of the United States of America on November 4, 2008, Senator Barack Obama won many hearts when he became the country’s first African-American president. His strong leadership and achievements propelled him to a second term in 2012. In delivering his final presidential address recently, he reflected on his eight years in office, saying that he has learned a lot from the people of his nation, and that they made him a better president.
Journey Into Politics
Armed with a degree in political science from Columbia University and a graduate of Harvard Law School, Obama worked in the corporate field, after which he worked as a community organiser at the Developing Communities Project, which he calls the “best education he’s ever got”. A life-long Democrat, he began his political career in 1996, when he was elected to the Illinois State Senate. Obama’s great efforts in providing subsidies for early childhood education programs and other areas helped him get re-elected in 1998 and again in 2002. In 2005, he was elected to the US Senate, where he served until his election as president.
A Historic Campaign
Obama formally announced his candidacy for president on February 10, 2007. He outlasted US Senator and former first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a tough primary campaign to claim the Democratic nomination in June 2008. He chose Joseph R. Biden Jr., a US senator since 1972, as his running mate.
As in the primary campaign, Obama’s operation worked to build support at the grassroots level. This, along with an inspiring message of hope and change, won him the election. His rise to the presidency represents a truly historic moment for the United States.
President Obama’s years of public service were built around his firm belief in the ability to tie people around a politics of purpose. He assumed office during the worst financial catastrophe since the Great Depression, which threatened the foundations of the global economy. The economy was in dire straits, millions were losing their homes, jobs, and all forms of savings. Thanks in large part to Obama’s efforts, a massive economic turnaround followed, spawning growth and a return to stability.
In addition, Obama passed a significant health care reform measure that several presidents preceding him failed to do. Among other notable achievements, Obama was responsible for eliminating terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden; toppling Moaamar Gaddafi; expanding stem cell research; investing heavily in renewable technology; and passing the Fair Sentencing Act. Despite these notable accomplishments, Obama was not universally admired as president, and for much of his tenure he was hampered by a Republican-controlled Congress. While he had his detractors, few could argue the fact that throughout his eight years in office, Obama behaved with dignity and professionalism, brought a measured yet compassionate approach to the White House, and commanded respect for the US on the world stage.
In a farewell speech that was “bigger than politics”, he urged for tolerance and appealed to the public to continue the fight against discrimination. Quoting lines from To Kill a Mockingbird, he said, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Barack Obama’s compassion and integrity will be missed by millions, both in the US and around the world. --- Niharika