President Barack Obama greets a group of students at Everglades National Park on Earth Day, 2015.

President Barack Obama greets a group of students at Everglades National Park on Earth Day, 2015.

President Obama was all about hope. He leaves warning against fear. After his farewell address in Chicago, how will history judge his presidency? At 55 percent his job approval is equivalent to Ronald Reagan’s at the same point, and ahead of Bill Clinton’s. It is more than 20 points higher than George W. Bush’s. But Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act, possibly pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement on climate change and tear up the U.S.-Iran nuclear deal. Each would undo some of President Obama’s most visible achievements. What does he leave behind?

Guests

  • TJ Dozier senior at Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland.
  • Rona Akbari student at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
  • Ryan Lizza Washington correspondent for The New Yorker.
  • Clarence Lusane chair of the political science department, Howard University.
  • Dan Mahaffee senior vice president and director of policy, the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC).
  • Hermene Hartman president and CEO of Hartman Publishing Group based in Chicago.

Highlights

  • Listen 23:29

    Ryan Lizza discusses what happened to the Obama coalition — the diverse group of voters who twice helped elect Obama president. "There are a lot of important questions about the racial, economic, demographic makeup of the next Democratic presidential candidate's coalition," he said. "Do they focus on expanding the same groups that turned out for Barack Obama but didn't quite make it for Hillary Clinton, or do they go back to a slightly more 1990s strategy, the original Clinton strategy of shoring up their base among the white working class, which was the big group Trump obviously stole from Hillary Clinton."

  • Listen 32:18

    Hermene Hartman explains how and why she was the first person to put Barack Obama on the cover of a magazine.

An Essay From TJ Dozier

TJ Dozier a high school senior in Maryland.

TJ Dozier is a senior at Georgetown Preparatory School in Maryland and a guest on Wednesday’s 1A. He wrote this essay for his college application.

My mother has taught me that I have a voice and that it can be heard at the voting booth. Thus, from the age of four, I accompanied her to the polling station and I vividly remember asking to press the button on a screen and felt proud to vote for her preferred candidate. Nonetheless, in 2008  I voiced my opinion for the first time, on who “we” should vote for. She had a different candidate in mind and I supported Barack Obama, not for his politics but, because of the common traits we shared; we are both lefties, half Kenyan, we play and love basketball and we were raised by single parents. As a nine year old, it meant so much to me to have a president that represented some of the characteristics that made me unique.

Eight years later my admiration for President Obama has pivoted and I am focusing on matters that touch the core of who I want to be as a man. I still appreciate how similar we are. Like me, he was raised by a single mother and we both grew up in a vacuum of wanting more from an absentee father. In his book Dreams of My Father, Obama talks about his father leaving him at the age of two and how throughout his life he dreamed about life with his father physically at his side. Like Obama, my father walked out of my life at the age of two and I have memories of me sitting by the window ledge waiting for him to pick me up, or for the phone to ring on my birthday or Christmas morning, neither of which happened. I would hear friends talk about plans they had with their dads and I would make up stories about my dad and things we did together. Yet, like Obama this has not handicapped me, instead it has been an incentive for me to push harder in life and work to be as successful as Obama and most important to be a man of compassion and integrity.

A father is one who is physically and emotionally available for his children. He is also their provider and protector. I have watched, with admiration, how Obama is a father to his daughters. He touts family values and actually leads by example by valuing his family as well as the American family. When he speaks about families you can hear the love and compassion in his voice. For instance, I felt his pain as a father through the TV screen when he spoke about the Sandy Hook tragedy and the Trayvon Martin incident with tears rolling down his cheeks. So I am compelled to think that if this man, who was raised by a strong mother turned out alright, this gives me hope for myself and other kids growing up without fathers.

Barack Obama touches my core and nourishes my soul from a distance. As he sprints to the last days of his presidency, I reflect on “my vote” at the age of nine and believe that it counted. My voice was heard because not only does this man melt away my veil of shame of being fatherless, but his message of hope resonates with me. He inspires me to truly believe that “yes I can” be a man of integrity, I can and will be an amazing husband and father who will create lasting bonds with my kids, grandkids and everyone else in my community. I am also inspired by him because now I understand that “yes, I can” be successful in anything I aspire to be or do, regardless of my growing up in a single family household.

Tell Your Story

We’re discussing President Obama’s legacy for the nation, but what is his legacy for you, personally?

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