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Ethics & Religion
Column #1,846
January 12, 2017
Obama's Farewell Address & Legacy
By Mike McManus


President Obama gave a moving Farewell Address in Chicago this week. Interestingly, he spent relatively little time taking credit for his achievements than he did to express concern about the health of democracy in America.

He expressed concern that too many Americans are taking their democracy for granted. He lamented the perennially low voter turnout, and urged more people to become involved. "If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the internet, try to talk with one in real life!" he urged.

Speaking to a cheering crowd of 18,000 in America's largest convention center, McCormick Place, and to a national TV audience of millions - he sought to unite a country that has grown more cynical after a summer of police shootings of young blacks - and the killings of police officers in Minnesota and Louisiana plus five cops murdered in Dallas.

"Can we do this?" he asked. "Can we find the character as Americans to open our hearts to each other? I don't know."

As the nation's first African-American President, he recalled, "After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intentioned, was never realistic," he said. "For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society."

He warned, "If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hard-working white middle class - an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves."

He recalled his days as a community organizer in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods. "This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged and come together to demand it."

The President touted his legacy of bringing home the vast majority of the troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the diplomatic agreement to shut down Iran's nuclear weapons program for a decade, and rallying the world around a major climate change agreement.

He took pride in the fact he led Congress to enact the Affordable Care Act which enabled more than 20 million people to gain health insurance. He shared the fear of many in the crowd that Trump could repeal the law, forcing millions to lose their health care.

However, Obamacare's soaring premiums and unpopularity has cost Democrats politically. Since 2010 Democrats have lost 14 Senate seats, 68 House seats and 12 governorships.

Yet in his Farewell Address, Obama issued a daring challenge, "If anyone can put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we've made in our health care system - that covers as many people at less cost - I will publicly support it."

He became president when America was mired in the Great Recession. Some 700,000 jobs were lost in his first month on the job! At one point there were 7 people looking for work for every job opening. Obama persuaded Congress to pass The Recovery Act which did boost job growth. Obama correctly took credit for 75 months of consecutive job growth, and incomes that are finally beginning to rise.

Oddly, he did not note there are 15 million new jobs and a low 4.7% unemployment rate - down from a 10% high.

However, Sean Hannity correctly reports that America has had the lowest labor participation rate since the 1970s, with 95 million Americans out of the labor force. "We have the lowest home ownership rate in 51 years - despite mortgage rates artificially kept at record lows. Over 11 million more Americans are on food stamps since he became president," Hannity declared.

"And by the time he leaves office, President Obama will have added more to our national debt than all of the other presidents combined"- about $9.9 trillion of new debt.

Obama's foreign policy has largely been a failure. He did not keep a modest number of U.S. troops in Iraq - creating a vacuum that gave rise to the Islamic State or ISIS. Combined with the Syrian Civil War, a half million people have been killed, and millions more have been forced out of their home to live in refugee camps. Perhaps 2 million have migrated to Europe.

Obama initially called ISIS the "JV Team," but has ordered 10,000 air strikes against this formidable enemy, helping allies recapture half of the lost territory.

However, his popularity remains high. One reason is the stable, healthy family that Barack and Michelle have created. It stands in stark contrast to the typical dysfunctional black family with absent fathers. In fact, Obama's most thunderous applause in Chicago came when he paid tribute to Michelle - "my best friend."

Copyright (c) 2017 Michael J. McManus, a syndicated columnist and past president of Marriage Savers. For previous columns go to Hit Search for any topic.


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