President Barack Obama may no longer be in office, but the legacy he left remains. As we try to stay positive for the future of our nation, it’s important to remember the progress Obama made, the people he inspired and, of course, the memes.
Our nation saw a great amount of change over the last eight years, and while efforts are being made to repeal progress, we can take pride knowing that our country will still be better off than it was before Obama took office. We can take comfort in the memories he left us and the hope he instilled in our hearts. It is that hope that we must carry with us for the next four years.
As difficult as it may be to watch Obama leave the Oval Office, know that this isn’t the end — not of our nation, not of our happiness and not of our progress. Those of us who believed in Obama’s message, those of us who felt touched by his calls for hope and change, we need to remember to keep fighting the good fight. We need to work to elect representatives we approve of in two years. We need to always go high when our opponents go low. We need to always remember that even if we lost the election, love will always trump hate in the end.
This might not be easy to believe right now, and we understand that. But Obama would not want us to dwell on our misery — he would want us to reflect on the achievements we are proud of and begin thinking about how we can further the progress he’s made. Although Obama’s accomplishments are ultimately immeasurable, what follows is a list of 20 reasons, some serious, others silly, to say “Thanks, Obama” today.
1. Giving us hope
One of the most distinctive representations of Obama’s first presidential campaign is the iconic image of him with the word “Hope” placed beneath him. As the United States’ first Black President, Obama was more than an inspiration to good Americans, he was a symbol of hope and optimism for minorities, particularly African Americans, and his historic election proved to be just the start of the progress he would create.
2. The “Thanks, Obama” meme
Not only did it provide this article with a convenient title, but it was one of the first political memes which would later define the 2016 election cycle and allow people to find some small amount of laughter in what was otherwise a horrifying spectacle. Thanks, Obama.
3. The Lilly Ledbetter Act
Obama’s first piece of legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, allowed those who were being paid less than others by companies to sue their employers at any point. Previously, the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case had only allowed such lawsuits to occur within 180 days of the alleged discrimination.
4. Passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, otherwise known as the Stimulus, was passed by Obama to combat the worst recession that the United States had seen since the Great Depression. Since the Stimulus was passed, the economy has improved and is now strong and durable once again.
5. Lifting restraints on stem-cell research
Shortly after entering office, Obama overturned stem-cell research policies put in place by his predecessor, George W. Bush. Though stem-cell research is controversial, it could lead to finding cures and treatments for diseases, help regenerate severed spinal cords and increase insulin production, among many other positive results.
6. The death of Osama bin Laden
Obama made hunting for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden a top priority and decided to launch a risky and successful raid on the terrorist leaders’ supposed whereabouts — the only option that could definitively kill the terrorist leader and have the least collateral damage.
7. Revealing his birth video
Obama dealt with constant accusations that he was born outside of the United States as well as demands to see his birth certificate. Though this was incredibly disrespectful and, even more, racist, Obama did not allow it to dampen his sense of humor. He took the requests further by releasing his birth video and showing us how he entered the circle of life.
8. The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, lowered healthcare costs to individuals and expanded health insurance coverage and is one of Obama’s most well-known achievements. In Michigan, studies have shown that Obamacare has not only improved health care coverage in the state, it has introduced thousands of jobs and brought in millions of dollars in revenue.
The friendship, often referred to as a “bromance,” between Obama and Vice President Joe Biden has been largely covered both by the media and through Internet memes. Their relationship, complete with friendship bracelets, has certainly raised the standards for BFFs throughout the United States.
10. Repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy
The discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy barred openly gay members from serving in the nation’s military. On Sept. 20, 2011, Obama repealed the act, allowing those who had been discharged because of the policy to reenlist and allowing all gays and lesbians to defend their nation while remaining open about their sexuality.
11. First Lady Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama, the only first lady who studied at two Ivy League schools, Princeton and Harvard, achieved enough as First Lady to have an entire article written for her. She has launched campaigns such as “Let’s Move!” to combat childhood obesity, “Joining Forces” to assist military families, “Reach Higher” to improve education and “Let Girls Learn” to improve education for girls worldwide.
12. Supreme Court picks
Obama placed two liberal and female Supreme Court justices on the bench. Sonia Sotomayor serves as the third female and first hispanic justice, while Elena Kagan serves as the fourth female, providing needed diversity considering 106 of 112 Justices have been white males.
13. Following the Constitution
Following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, which occurred almost a year before Obama’s term would end, Obama attempted to nominate Merrick Garland to fill his seat, a power given to him through the United States Constitution. Although Garland was a moderate who seemed a fair compromise to those that wanted to wait for a Republican to nominate a justice, the Supreme Court did not act on his nomination.
14. “I know, because I won both of them.”
On Jan. 20, 2015, Obama responded to Republicans who were pleased that he had no more campaigns to run with the quip, “I know, because I won both of them.” Obama quickly returned to his State of the Union address following the response, and regardless of how Republicans reacted to it, the comment is certainly one of Obama’s most iconic moments.
15. Restoring diplomatic ties with Cuba
After 50 years of turbulent relations, the United States and Cuba agreed to restore their diplomatic ties. Obama agreed to ease some restrictions on Cuba, while President Raúl Castro released 53 United States prisoners. This restoration is likely to lead to economic growth and improved human rights for those in Cuba.
16. His turkey pardoning jokes
Turkey pardoning is a tradition at the White House each November. Obama has enhanced the tradition by stuffing his speeches with embarrassingly fowl puns about turkeys and Thanksgiving dinner, a practice he says he won’t stop “cold turkey” now that he’s out of office.
17. Supporting the progress of the LGBT community
Along with repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Obama further helped LGBT individuals by endorsing gay marriage, appointing over 200 LGBT individuals to federal positions and by opposing the Defense of Marriage Act which refused federal marriage recognition to LGBT couples. Most importantly, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in every state during the Obama administration.
18. Realizing global warming is not a hoax invented by the Chinese
Obama helped with negotiations and encouraged the ratification of the Paris Climate Treaty, an agreement between countries not to allow the Earth’s global temperature to increase by more than two degrees. The European Union and 192 nations have since signed the agreement.
19. Trying to save us
Obama was fired up to endorse Hillary Clinton, his Secretary of State and the most qualified candidate to ever run for office, as she campaigned for the 2016 general election. Obama encouraged Senator Bernie Sanders, who ran against Clinton in the primaries, to use the energy of his political campaign to inspire his somewhat disgruntled supporters to do whatever they could to defeat Trump and ensure a victory for what should have been the first female president.
20. Giving us hope, one last time
Although many of us woke with tear-stained faces on the morning of Nov. 9, Obama, who was clearly not thrilled about the results of the election, gave a speech to remind us that the sun was up, that life would go on and that we still had the progress he had achieved over the last eight years. He reminded us that this legacy will live on and promised to do whatever is in his power to create a smooth transition of leadership.