We wait to find out what our president-elect will do. Although it appears that his behavior will be remarkably (and unfortunately) consistent with when he was a candidate.
In the meantime, I’m reflecting on the remarkable presidency of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama.
Thank you, above all, for leading with grace.
This was no small feat. Your opposition was resolute. You faced overt and subtle racism as the sad yet inevitable part of being our first black leaders.
Thank you for maintaining your sense of humor.
Mr. President, it’s a gift and I never tired of seeing you use it to needle your opponents, or to just bring some levity to an otherwise impossible job.
Thank you for deescalating our wars.
While you didn’t accomplish all that you set out to, our presence in the Middle East is reduced and you avoided new conflicts. Peace is our goal. You changed the world’s perception of our country as aggressor, using diplomacy to navigate the turbulent waters.
Thank you for decisive action in the financial crisis of 2008.
You let our leaders such as Geithner and Bernanke do their best in the heat of a crisis. There were no best or easy solutions, so doing something quickly was the best course, and you did. The recovery is incomplete and far from equally spread across our workforce, but the crisis is over for now.
Thank you for passing Obamacare.
We are the only democracy without universal healthcare. As the wealthiest nation, we need to treat it as a right and not a privilege.
Obamacare is the first step in that direction. It is flawed and will be replaced with something else. But it will be hard to take coverage away from 20 million Americans who now have it. Many of whose lives were literally saved by it.
There is no progress yet on costs, which are out of control relative to any comparative measure with other countries. This journey will last decades longer but you started it.
Thank you for being the moral voice on gun violence.
You used each tragedy as a reminder of the need for progress on gun control.
However, there is unfinished business.
I wish during your tenure we would have imposed greater control over the financial industry. Its power and potential for abuse remain largely unchecked.
I wish during your tenure that we found a humanitarian solution to the Syrian crisis. America should never turn a blind eye to genocide and conflicts that kill innocents en masse.
I wish we could progress on gun violence. In terms of legislation, there are many incremental gains to be had. In mental health care, we need to accept and respond to the fact that so many mass murderers are afflicted with untreated mental health issues. We now know that mental health is, well, health.
I wish we had cheaper education. Global trade, automation and the exodus of manufacturing have caused a massive economic dislocation in the last 30 years. Those who were affected the most need education and social support to learn new skills, not keep old jobs that are no longer viable.
I am sure history will judge you both very well, and it is much deserved.
Your legacy might be sidetracked by your successor for a time, but as you have quoted Dr. King, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In fact, yours might be the most important moral voices since Dr. King himself.