In last week’s farewell speech in Chicago, president Obama spoke about his achievements over the past 8 years as president of the United States and reminded the American people of the strength of humanity as a whole and the need for the nation to come together, stand up for human rights and protect democracy. Reflecting on the future, president Obama shared a message of hope and optimism by saying: “… we need to try harder. […] To start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country as much as we do, they value hard work and family like we do, their children are as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own”.
Barack Obama, a trained civil rights attorney, former professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, former senator of Illinois and the 44th president of the United States – the first African American to be elected to the US presidency – started his time at the White House on January 20th, 2009. He was re-elected president in November 2012, winning over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and was sworn in for a second term on January 20th, 2013.
During his time as president of the United States, Barack Obama signed into law a series of innovative legal initiatives such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – an economic stimulus plan, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, etc. He also signed the New START arms control with Russia, promoted discussions leading to the 2015 Paris Agreement on global climate change, brokered a nuclear deal with Iran and championed negotiations leading to a normalization of the US-Cuba relations.
A man of many skills and talents, president Obama appears to have showcased a remarkable flair for public speaking, applying a distinctive technique combining a number of elements from using concrete and tangible words to anaphora – the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive sentences, resorting to hand gestures and mimic to punctuate his ideas, adopting different tone volumes, pausing for impact, and even shedding a tear or two when delivering an impassioned speech. Following in the footsteps of other noteworthy effective public speakers, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Ronald Regan, John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill, Obama seems to have captured the ability of connecting with his audience and made it his own.
The president’s words through the years seemed to have carried the aims to revitalise the economy, insure stability and protect equality, innovate health care, and bring about change for the better. Based on a 2009 poll conducted in Western Europe and the US by the market research firm Harris Interact, president Obama was rated as the most respected world leader, as well as the most powerful, and the one figure most people pinned their aims for boosting the economy.
While for the past 8 years Barack Obama may have represented the face and the voice of the change his voters were aiming to see in the United States, the American people, working together, have the opportunity to take this message of hope further and transform it into a tangible value reflected on actual progress and social remodeling; in president Obama’s words: “This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country”. […] “You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something […] to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward.”
How may president Obama’s legacy motivate future generations?