For as long as I’ve followed politics, the one constant has been a man named Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office. During the eight years he has led the country I have admired him, not only for his intelligent policies and decision-making but for his character and personality. His compassion, intelligence and integrity has shone through in everything he has done, from the issues he has chosen to champion to the way he interacts with others.
President Obama doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his economic efforts. When he took office we were in free fall, with an unemployment rate of 7.8 percent because we were losing 800,000 jobs per month. Thanks in part to the economic stimulus and other policies we have not had a month where we lost jobs since 2010. The unemployment rate is below five percent, which beat a campaign promise made by Mitt Romney in 2012. Wages are growing at the fastest rate since the Great Recession. And last year alone, 3.5 million people climbed above the poverty line, allowing better lives for themselves and their families. The only major criticisms of the economic recovery, slow growth and low wages, would have likely been alleviated if the president had not been blocked from instituting a bigger stimulus package or higher minimum wage.
But what I admire most about Obama is not what he did, but why he did it. He fought for gun reforms because he couldn’t stand to see children slaughtered in their classroom. He fought for the Affordable Care Act despite knowing that it would be unpopular, because he cared more about people getting access to quality healthcare than he did about his party’s political future.
He is perhaps best well-known for his efforts to combat climate change and in 50 years we may very well hail him as a savior for his efforts to negotiate the Paris agreement. He did not do it because he wanted fame or admiration, though. He did it for the future of the human race, saying, “I want to be able to take my little grandson or granddaughter on a walk to the park and know that the planet is in pretty good shape. And I want to feel like I contributed to that…If he or she are able to enjoy that sunny day and feel good about it, and breathe clean air, and go swimming in an ocean, and I can watch them play—that will be a pretty good legacy.”
President Obama was a positive force for social change; the first sitting president to announce his support of gay marriage, he helped lead the way for marriage equality in all 50 states. He also oversaw the end of DOMA and “Don’t ask, don’t tell” while fighting for workplace protections for LGBT individuals. It is entirely possible that without his leadership millions of people would not be able to marry who they love, or even be accepted by society for who they are. Now LGBT citizens not only have legal protections, but are no longer outcasts in a cultural sense. Obama helped teach us that we should care for one another regardless of sexual or gender orientation, and we are better for it.
Whether or not you agree with him on policy, President Obama has undeniably shown himself to be a good and compassionate person. He never stooped to the level of his critics, never failed to show respect to anyone whether they were a foreign dignitary or a heckler at a speech. He loved kids and kids loved him. Despite the often vitriolic and hateful opposition to him he never failed to reaffirm his faith in the American people. I will never forget the true leadership that Barack Obama has displayed, and the example he set for our nation on how to treat others. I wish him and his family the best of luck in the future. I am confident he will continue to have a positive impact on the world.
Jacob Kowalski is a weekly columnist to The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.