If the mark of a successful American presidency is to leave our nation and world in a better place than it was when a President first entered office, then the 44th President of the United States could conclude with some confidence that he has succeeded.
It would be an evaluation of President Obama’s stewardship of our highest office with which the American people, by a significant majority, would agree.
Even in the wake of a decade of unfair and hyper-partisan attacks – and a bitterly partisan 2016 campaign to succeed our President in which his record of achievement was often derided and criticized – every major national polling organization confirms an essential truth.
A solid majority of the American People approve of the job that President Obama has done for us.
Indeed, it is quite likely that our nation would elect Barack Hussein Obama, II, for a third term, if constitutionally permitted to do so.
In part, the public’s judgment reflects our President’s solid record of accomplishments. Consider just a few of his achievements.
After years of steady job growth, most Americans have not forgotten President Obama’s leadership in saving an economy that was losing more than 700,000 jobs each month when he took office – fundamentally reforming our financial system and consumer protection in the process.
We will not forget that he expanded access to health care for more than 22 million Americans, establishing access to care as a fundamental right; or that he expanded Pell Grants for lower-income college students by $36 billion while providing significant debt-relief to our next generation.
We now live in a nation in which solar energy installations have increased by 2,000 percent, both carbon emissions and our dependency on oil have been reduced, and combatting climate change is now a serious national priority.
I call these facts to your attention because the American People’s closing evaluation of our President is more important than some would have us think – primarily because of what it reveals about us as an American majority.
Although some would have us believe that the next President and Congress will erase Barack Obama’s legacy from history, I disagree.
The next four years may well be a period dominated by our struggle against political reaction. Tens of millions of Americans may experience serious economic and social pain.
Yet, in the longer term, I remain confident in our future – in no small part because of Barack Obama’s transformative presidency and its impact upon all of us as an already strong, talented and humane people.
Americans of Color should not forget the long-considered, well-reasoned and positive evaluation of our President by the American public. For hundreds of millions of Americans of every race, Barack Obama has not simply been America’s first Black President. He has been, and remains, our President.
He remains our President because he sought our highest office by evoking the better Angels of our Nature; and he remains our President because, during 8 years in office, he consistently focused upon the aspirations and values that we Americans share – rather than upon the fears that can divide us.
For all the uncertainty we now must face and overcome as a nation, there is a lasting truth upon which we can rely. In pursuing higher ground for us as a nation, President Obama achieved something far deeper and longer lasting than eight years of political power.
As the respected CNN commentator, Mr. Fareed Zakaria, accurately observed: “Presidential legacies also exist above and beyond laws and policies . . . . And in that sense, Obama has left an indelible mark.”
“[President Obama] and his family occupied the White House with dignity, grace and good humor,” Mr. Zakaria continued. “He ran an administration that was largely scandal-free. He celebrated and promoted American excellence in every sphere, from science to art to sports. And he did it all while under a microscope, because he looked different.”
Most of us would agree. As a candidate, Barack Obama, along with Michelle Obama and their children, offered America hope and change.
As our President, Barack Obama delivered – and the most lasting and transformative change has been within each of us.
It is a simple, yet important truth about our lives that there is a fundamental difference between a hope that has never been realized and one that, once realized, is now being threatened.
Never again can anyone successfully argue that a Black American (or any American) cannot master the most difficult job in the land. Never again will any American child fear to aspire to greatness because the color of his or her skin traps them in a rigid cast of unacceptability.
Now, we can believe that any achievement is possible. We have experienced Barack Obama’s reality – and no one can deprive us of this transformative change.
As we face an uncertain and difficult time together, we are strengthened by what we have learned from a very, very good President – and, arguably, a great one.
Barack Obama has respected us as a people, believed in our ability to have compassion for one another, and believed in our ability to grow. As a result, we have come to believe more strongly in ourselves and in a better future for our country.
This transformation will not easily be erased – and, for this, above all, a grateful nation can give thanks.
Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.