As former President Barack Obama rounded off his eighth year in the Oval Office, BYU-Hawaii students reflect on the actions and overall performance of America’s 44th president. “The words ‘thank you’ aren’t quite large enough for my feelings [towards Obama]. Barack has set the bar high for world leaders” said senior peacebuilding major Becca Vigoren of Washington.
Josh Maneha, a resident of Kaneohe, was more critical of the departing president. Maneha said, “Some may claim that he has helped race relationships, but this is contrary to what has actually been happening. This spike in racial issues hit as Obama took office and he has not accomplished much to dissolve or improve it. Obama’s claim to progression has been a war fought in vain. [I feel] Obama and his presidency have run the country more like a regime under a police state, with Americans no longer able to express themselves because of the fear of becoming offensive or not politically correct. This is why you see the pendulum swing far in favor of Trump.”
Portuguese student Inês Almeida, a senior studying Exercise Science shared how as an international student she has “seen that American culture is very individualistic and they often only care for [their] own needs. Something that was great about President Obama was that he really cared about everyone’s needs.”
“I think Americans often only see the negative things about him because they’re not looking at their president from a perspective of someone outside the country. When I left my country, I realized I took so many things for granted like the universal healthcare in my country called the Serviço Nacional de Saúde. I really do love Obama. I think he’s a good president because he cares about the whole population and not just the rich,” Almeida added.
Vigoren wanted to express her gratitude towards Obama’s accomplishments as president and shared, “I was able to witness the historical legislation that allowed my best friend and so many others the right to marry whomever they pleased. I got to listen to the first family speak openly about their support for women's rights and set an example for feminists everywhere.”
“I saw a man challenge a congress that was against him to achieve great things. I saw unemployment rates drop and the student loan program get better. I celebrated the passing of bills that would allow the world’s most disadvantaged people gain access to energy, food, and medication. I saw America become great again in the past 8 years and I’m honestly sad to see Obama go,” Vigoren concluded with.
Contradictorily, junior marine biology major Justice Royer from Oregon explained how he felt “[Obama] had a lot of good ideas, but he didn't have the best way of going about implementing his plans all the time. He definitely wanted the country to improve, and his intentions were for good which is what’s really important.”
Vigoren said, “I was able to see millions of people, and many of my friends and family get access to healthcare for the first time in their lives.” Almeida seconded Vigoren on healthcare, and explained how it relates to many European healthcare systems, “He did a great job at creating things like Obamacare, which is really good, and I have seen first-hand how positive affordable health care has been in Europe. Especially since your health should not be based off your income. Obama doesn’t let power get to him and he has always thought of the needs of all the Americans.”
Maneha discredited the Affordable Care Act by saying, “It promises fairness, but at the high price of penalizing middle class Americans.”
Nicole Zitto, a junior art major from Hawaii, described her mixed feelings about President Obama by saying, “I think [Obama] made a good president and a good man. He did have some good ideas that he was able to implement while in office. He also didn't go about doing certain things that were the best.” Zitto continued by explaining how she did not like the way Obama specifically dealt with the Syrian civil war. She said she thought the United States should have a higher involvement in helping restore order.
Junior Abby Liv, a molecular biology major from California, projected her thoughts on Obama and explained, “Policy wise not the best [president], but then again he was right after Bush, so the bar was pretty low as is. As a person and from his speeches in general, he had a way about conveying himself that I think most Americans really liked. Overall I think I will miss Obama as president.”