Barack Hussein Obama II (born August 4, 1961) is an American politician was is most famous for being the first African American President of the United States. When Obama took office, U.S. was going through one of its worst depressions and he took the necessary steps to take the nation out of depression. His other domestic policy achievements include reducing unemployment and poverty; decreasing the number of Americans who lack insurance; focusing on clean energy; and reducing official discrimination against the LGBTQ group. In foreign policy, Obama is most known for the successful operation against Osama bin Laden, the Iran Nuclear Deal and improvement of U.S. relations with Cuba. Barack Obama has been honored by multiple awards for his contributions, most notably the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Here are the 10 major accomplishments of President Barack Obama.

 

#1 Barack Obama was the first African American President of the United States

During his time in Harvard, in 1990, Obama became the first African American elected president of the Harvard Law Review. From January 8, 1997 to November 4, 2004, he was a member of the Illinois Senate from the 13th district. Then from January 3, 2005 to November 16, 2008, Obama served as the United States Senator from Illinois. In February 2007, Obama announced his candidacy for President of the United States. In the 2008 United States presidential election, he defeated the Republican candidate John McCain winning 52.9% of the popular vote and 365 electoral votes as compared to MaCain’s 173. In the 2012 elections, Obama was re-elected with 332 electoral votes and 51.1% of the popular vote. Thus Barack Obama served as the 44th President of the United States from January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017. More importantly, Obama was the first African American to be elected president of the United States. His victory had major symbolic significance for the historically marginalized African American community in the United States.

Barack Obama swearing in ceremony
Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States

 

#2 He took the necessary steps to bring the economy out of recession

When Barack Obama assumed the presidency, the United States was going through the worst financial crisis it had seen since the Great Depression in the 1930s. The Subprime mortgage crisis had a ripple effect on the entire economy, rendering several people unemployed and homeless. The Obama administration took a number of steps to address the depression including the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), an $800 billion stimulus spending and tax cut bill; and the 2010 Tax Relief Act, an $850 billion bill with payroll, income and Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) tax cuts along with an extension of unemployment benefits. Apart from these Acts, Obama successfully rescued the troubled automotive industry by renewing loans for General Motors and Chrysler; and allowed the Federal Reserve to take drastic steps to rejuvenate the economy. All these steps helped the United States successfully recover from the recession.

President Obama signs the ARRA into law on February 17, 2009 in Denver, Colorado

 

#3 Unemployment and poverty rate dropped during his presidency

When Obama took office, the unemployment rate was high at 7.8%. It peaked at 10% in October 2009 and didn’t drop below 9% for two succeeding years. However, by the time Obama left office, the unemployment rate had dropped 3 full percentage points to 4.8%. Moreover, this was well below the historical norm of 5.6%. The inflation-adjusted incomes of American households reached the highest level ever recorded under President Obama. The median household income reached $59,039 in 2016, an increase of $2,963, or 5.3%, as compared to 2008. As a consequence of increase in incomes there was a decrease in the poverty rate. The poverty rate under the Obama administration decreased from 13.2% in 2008 to 12.7% in 2016, a drop of 0.5%. However, the number of people living below the poverty line increased by 787,000 to 40.6 million. The difference in numbers is because the population grew at a faster rate.

US Unemployment Rate Change graph
Comparison of Unemployment Rate Change of Post World War II presidents

 

#4 Obamacare significantly decreased the number of Americans who lack insurance

On March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), popularly known as Obamacare. It was the most significant regulatory overhaul and expansion of the U.S. healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. The increased coverage in Obamacare was due to an expansion of Medicaid eligibility and due to major changes to individual insurance markets. Though Obamacare remains controversial, it did have a major impact. When Obama took office, 43.8 million Americans of all ages lacked health insurance. This number decreased to 28.6 million in 2016, a drop of 15.2 million people. Thus the percentage of all U.S. residents who lack coverage dropped from 14.7% in 2008 to 9.0% in 2016, the lowest percentage on record.

US Health Insurance graph from 1997 to 2016
Graph of people without Health Insurance from 1997 to 2016

 

#5 He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to combat gender based wage discrimination

Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama. She filed an equal pay lawsuit against the corporation after she learned that she earned much less than two male managers in comparable positions. Her appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court on the grounds that 180 days had passed since the wage discrimination occurred. However, Ledbetter’s case was picked up by activist groups who protested against the court’s decision as it was a setback for women and civil rights. On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act by which discrimination based on age, religion, national origin, race, sex and disability will “accrue” every time the employee receives a paycheck that is deemed discriminatory. Thus, the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit to fight pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act enhanced worker protections against pay discrimination and is regarded as an important step to help close the gender based wage gap in the United States.

President Obama with Lilly Ledbetter
President Obama with Lilly Ledbetter (left)

 

#6 Solar and Wind Energy more than quadrupled under the Obama administration

In 2016, the United States produced 77% more crude oil than it did in 2008. Thus, U.S. reliance on imported oil decreased from 57% in 2008 to 24.8% in 2016, a drop of more than half. More importantly Barack Obama started a drive towards clean energy. In 2009, nearly $90 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act went to renewable energy. In 2015, renewable tax credits were extended for solar and wind power. As a result of these initiatives, the cost of solar and wind power decreased considerably. Land-based wind costs dropped 41%; the cost of rooftop solar declined by 54%; and utility-scale solar costs declined by 64%. Wind and solar power more than quadrupled under the Obama administration. It accounted for 6.5% of total large-scale generation in 2016, as compared to only 1.4% in 2008, an increase of 5.1%. Moreover, in 2010, Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) was founded. ARPA-E is a government agency tasked with promoting and funding research and development of advanced energy technologies.

 

#7 Al-Qaeda terrorist Osama bin Laden was killed during his presidency

In January 2011, the CIA briefed Vice Admiral William H. McRaven about the location of Osama bin Laden, the founder and first leader of the Islamist group Al-Qaeda who played a leading role in the September 11 attacks on the United States. On March 14, 2011, President Obama met with the National Security Council to review the options. Due to his concerns that the mission would be exposed and as he wanted to proceed quickly, Obama decided against involving Pakistan, the nation in which Bin Laden was hiding. On March 29, Obama ruled out a bombing plan and authorized a “surgical raid” to be conducted by United States Navy SEALs. On April 19, Obama gave provisional approval for the helicopter raid. On May 1, 2011, the operation was conducted successfully and Osama bin Laden was shot dead in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The raid was welcomed by the United Nations, NATO, the European Union and a large number of governments. It ended a nearly 10 year search for Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden hideout
CIA aerial view of the compound in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was hiding

 

#8 Barack Obama improved US relations with Iran and Cuba

Since 2006, the United Nations had placed economic sanctions on Iran on grounds that they were secretly developing nuclear weapons. These sanctions had a crippling effect on Iran’s economy. After a lot of back and forth, and largely thanks to President Obama’s perseverance, a deal was signed between Iran and the P5+1 (China, Russia, France, UK, US, Germany and the European Union) known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Popularly called the Iran Nuclear Deal, it lifted the sanctions on Iran in return of Iran agreeing to limit its sensitive nuclear activities and allowing international inspectors. Apart from the Iran Nuclear Deal, in March 2016, Obama became the first U.S. President to visit Cuba since 1928. Moreover, along with Cuban President Raul Castro, he announced on 17th December 2014 that a process of normalizing relations between Cuba and U.S. would be started. This announcement ended a 54-year stretch of hostility between the nations.

Barack Obama with Raul Castro
President Obama (R) with Cuban President Raul Castro (L)

 

#9 He is regarded as the most pro-LGBTQ president in US history

On October 8, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. This Act extended the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. On December 22, 2010, Obama signed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act. This Act established a process for ending the Don’t ask, don’t tell policy, an official U.S. policy which barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual persons from military service. Thus the Act allowed gay, lesbian and bisexual people to serve openly in the U.S. Armed Forces. Moreover, in 2012, Obama became the first sitting American president to publicly support for the legalization of same-sex marriage; and in 2013, he became the first American president in office to call for full equality for gay Americans. Due to these steps, Obama is widely regarded as the most pro-LGBTQ president in the history of the United States.

Barack Obama Nobel Peace Prize
President Barack Obama holds his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

 

#10 Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009

Barack Obama’s 1995 memoir Dreams from My Father is regarded as one of the best memoirs ever written by an American politician. In 2006, its abridged audio-book version won the Grammy Award for the Best Spoken Word Album. The following year, the memoir also received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work, Nonfiction. In 2009, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”. He was the fourth U.S. president to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the third to become a Nobel laureate while in office. In 2013, Obama received the Israeli President’s Medal of Distinction, the highest civil medal given by the State of Israel. In 2017, Obama was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the highest award that is presented by the Secretary of Defense. The same year, he also received the Profile in Courage Award presented by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

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