With President Barack Obama’s time in office coming to an end this Friday, many professors in Penn’s Political Science Department are analyzing the legacy that he has left behind. They have a diverse set of opinions on Obama’s policies and how they will endure moving forward.
“We are entering a period of unusual uncertainty,” professor Rogers Smith said. “So we cannot say for certain how his legislation will change over the next four years.”
The interviewed professors all had different ideas about what Obama’s signature achievement is. In the unlikely circumstance that Republicans in Congress do not repeal it, professor Marc Meredith believes that the Affordable Care Act is what President Obama will be remembered for in the long run.
Smith, meanwhile, believes the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which brought the United States out of the 2008-2009 recession, is Obama’s major accomplishment.
However, all three professors agreed that under Obama’s presidency, the divide between Democrats and Republicans grew to historic proportions.
“We are in a time of heightened polarization. There is no longer that ‘E Pluribus Unum’ belief that America was founded upon,” Smith said.
Especially after a presidential election that separated so many people based on their political outlooks, Smith believes that it is vital that citizens start to unify. Other professors see teaching moments as well.
Meredith said that the tone of the 2018 midterm elections will be important in determining the future of America’s political landscape.
Professor Dawn Teele said she believes that Penn students can learn a lot from President Obama’s attitude.
“Obama has that undying optimism and the belief that you can empathize with everyone. Penn undergraduates should take this moment to not only organize politically but also dedicate themselves to public service,” Teele said.
She said she has hope that Penn students will work hard to promote the rights of all Americans, regardless of their race, gender or socioeconomic condition.
“Your 20s are the absolute best time to pursue your passion,” Teele said. “People have to stick to their roots and make a difference in their local communities.”
She emphasized that Penn students should not only focus on pre-professional activities, but also on projects that make a substantial impact on their local communities. President Obama himself started in local politics as a state senator in Illinois, after spending years as a Chicago community organizer.
“He will be remembered as genuinely historic [for being] the first person of African-American descent to lead a Western nation,” Smith said. “He is one of the most decent human beings to ever hold the office.”
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