If it is an arduous task to chronicle the life of an ordinary citizen, as biographers will admit, it must be a heck of work to chronicle the life of a once most powerful man in the world. The Washington Post invested all its journalistic resources to collate and chronicle Obama’s time in the White House. Titled “Obama’s Legacy”, it is an encyclopedic report that sustains attention with beautiful illustrations, graphics, photos, videos, and conversational reports. The thorough and well-researched work will be valuable for easy referencing about Obama’s legacy.
The report is broken down into five “rooms”:
- The First Black President
- Commander In Chief
- Obama’s America
- Obama and the World
- The First Family
Each room represents episodes in Obama’s presidency.
We culled some interesting excerpts from of the rooms.
A Hopeful Moment on Race
“Barack Obama’s watershed 2008 election and the presidency that followed profoundly altered the aesthetics of American democracy, transforming the Founding Fathers’ narrow vision of politics and citizenship into something more expansive and more elegant.”
“The Obama victory helped fulfill one of the great ambitions of the civil rights struggle by showcasing the ability of extraordinarily talented black Americans to lead and excel in all facets of American life. First lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Sasha and Malia, extended this reimagining of black American life by providing a conspicuous vision of a healthy, loving and thriving African American family that defies still-prevalent racist stereotypes.”
Barack Obama’s candidacy and subsequent presidency changed forever the way we see the American presidency. Obviously, he looked different from the men who preceded him, but he also brought a different sensibility and aesthetic to the office. Some of the change was traceable to the time he rose to power, which explains the selfies and tweets, and the hip-hop references. Others felt singular to his role as the first black president. The result, in both cases, was a series of striking and novel presidential images and moments.
It was Mandela’s struggle and writings that had persuaded a young Obama to take his first steps into political activism during his years at Occidental College and at Harvard Law School in the early 1990s.
In his 1995 book, “Dreams From My Father,” Obama wrote that Mandela, from afar, was one of his male role models in the absence of his own father. Mandela was released from prison in 1990. Obama had visited Robben Island once before, in 2006 as a U.S. senator from Illinois, but not as president and not with his family.
And yet for Obama, the return is bittersweet.
Barack Obama may not have envisioned himself as a wartime commander in chief in 2008, but that is what he inevitably became — as was his predecessor, as will be his successor. He will be faulted for many things in this role, no doubt, but one of the weightiest criticisms is, on its surface, the least probable for this rhetorically gifted man: his failures of speech.
Eight Turbulent Years
The hope-and-change poetry of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign did not last long, except as an echo, into the day-to-day administration of the government. The president’s primary task was the difficult, and very prosaic, one of trying to fix an economy still in the grips of recession. That job would last much of his presidency; the economic recovery would be among the slowest on record. Not until six years into the administration, during his next-to-last State of the Union address, would Obama be comfortable enough with the progress to declare: “The shadow of crisis has passed.”
Making Presidential Comedy
The 2008 campaign made him an international icon. His speeches drew enormous crowds, and his image from Shepard Fairey’s “Hope” poster became ubiquitous. But it wasn’t until Obama’s second term that he and his aides managed to fully harness the power of the digital media age — including interviews with Hollywood and YouTube stars, as well as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — to advance the White House’s message in an increasingly fractured media landscape.
Obama’s interview with Zach Galifianakis on “Between Two Ferns” is the embodiment of this strategy.
As a candidate for the presidency, Barack Obama presented himself as more worldly than the incumbent, George W. Bush. Implicit in his claim was that he would do a better job managing America’s affairs in the world that Bush did. But Obama has not always been able to live up to that promise, in part because of difficult, or at least complicated, relationships with some of the key world leaders.
A significant part of Obama’s challenge was that his presidency coincided with a period of burgeoning Chinese confidence, a time when leaders in Beijing began to gauge just how powerful their country had become in the world. They were increasingly eager to throw their newfound weight around against Washington. Suddenly, leaders such as President Xi Jinping were no longer willing to make concessions or give ground on issues such as territorial claims and disputes over trade, cybersecurity and human rights.
Families can be mysterious, intense and, more often than not, indecipherable to the outside world. Most families seem to endure similar gyrations and upheavals. There are moments of failure and success. There is admirable endurance. To study any individual family is to crisscross tricky terrain, and to invite an endless and almost timeless inquiry.
As Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama — the first family, along with grandma Marian Robinson — depart the White House, it is worth looking back at their visage. What did it mean to have a black family, for eight years, astride the political and cultural colossus of American society? How much did the “African” in “African American” resonate?
Obama would give much bigger speeches on much bigger stages as she became one of the most famous people in the world. For many Democrats, she was the moral voice of the 2016 presidential campaign, calling out Republican Donald Trump for trafficking in “prejudice, fears and lies.” For other fans, she was simply the first lady who went viral, making them smile with her eclectic fashion choices and her energetic, sometimes goofy pitches for healthier eating.
“Their backgrounds and personalities couldn’t be more different. Obama is cerebral and disdains drama, while Biden is all heart and emotion and prone to theatrics in his own decision-making.”
“… it’s fair to say the first dogs of the Obama administration were rock stars. Their schedule was so packed that they had a monthly agenda of appearances, overseen and approved by the first lady. They were regulars at the White House Easter Egg Roll and on Christmas visits to hospitals. They sometimes visited with foreign dignitaries at the White House, and the first lady was accompanied by Bo on White House tours she gave on her husband’s inaugural anniversary.”
Read the full report here – Obama’s Legacy.