|President Barack Obama boards Air Force One|
White House Photo by Pete Souza
Today is the last full day of the Barack Obama Presidency.
Tomorrow, shortly after noon, Donald Trump will raise his right hand and become the 45th President of the United States. It's a time-honored and tested ritual The power of the United States Executive Branch of Government will pass peacefully to Trump. I think it's fair to say that two more different men have rarely taken part in this well-rehearsed ceremony.
The good news for President Obama is that the burden of leading this country will rise from his shoulders, and America's problems will become that of Donald Trump. The talk will have to stop, and he will have to lead. As many before have said, the past has been prologue, but the future has not been written.
What an eight years we've had with a man who grew up in a way unlike any previous POTUS. The first African-American President of the United States left a consequential legacy that hopefully come the future will still be in tact.
Among his major accomplishments in office: bringing back the economy from near-collapse, adding millions of new jobs after double-digit unemployment gripped the land, saving the auto industry, repairing a shattered reputation around the world, attacking climate change and immigration reform, passing the Affordable Care Act, honoring the agreement with Iraq to bring home our troops, beginning the process of drawing down troops in Afghanistan, normalizing relationships with Cuba, refusing to let our enemies sleep, and getting Osama bin Laden.
There were many disappointments too. The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was bungled. Obama was unsuccessful in passing comprehensive immigration reform and getting action on gun control. During his administration, the United States Government spied domestically on Americans and on some of our biggest allies. Benghazi was poorly-handled, and the Syrian Civil War spun out of control allowing the rise of ISIS.
Part of the reason for these disappointments was a Congress that, for six years of his eight years, worked strongly against him. President Obama has been disrespected and treated more poorly than many of his predecessors. All the while, the President and his family have been a picture of class, intelligence, and even good humor.
There will be many defining American moments that we'll look back upon as to when President Obama was at his best. One moment I'll always remember will be when he stood at the memorial service in Charleston for the nine people shot and killed in the Mother Emanuel AME Church shooting and broke into "Amazing Grace". It was a healing moment.
I'll also remember the movement that got him elected. I remember meeting in people's living rooms and in coffee shops. I remember making phone calls and knocking doors on his behalf. I remember getting to know Mike Liroff and Charlie Davis and other organizers in the campaign. I believed in President Obama. I believed in the movement.
I'll remember when Obama's Vice President, Joe Biden, said he was "absolutely comfortable" with marriage equaity in this country. Soon, Obama said he backed it, too. The Department of Justice stopped defending DOMA. Don't Ask Don't Tell went by the wayside. Public opinion turned around, and Republican-appointed judges and Supreme Court Justices ultimately made marriage equality the law of the land in a broad advancement of civil rights for gay people like me.
That was not only the hope and change he promised. It was signed, sealed, and delivered.
Tomorrow, Barack Hussein Obama II leaves office with a near 60 percent approval rating. His administration has been largely scandal-free. A grateful country says thank you.
I say thank you, and I can't wait to see what's next. At 55, Barack Obama seems far from done making change. This country needs him badly, too. While I hope Donald Trump succeeds for the good of the country, I know that Barack Obama will be there to use his bully pulpit to make the world a better place. To me, that's the job of a former President.
There will never be another Barack Obama. For one final time, thanks Obama!