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President Obama visited Eakins Oval in Center City to campaign on behalf of Hillary Clinton in September. He reflected on his work during his presidency and lauded Clinton for her experience in politics.

Credit: Lulu Wang

With election day in under a week, the next president of the United States is on everyone's mind. However, Thursday evening students flocked to College Hall to trade opposing facts and witty remarks in a debate about the legacy of our current commander-in-chief.

The Penn Political Union invited both members and non-members to participate in a formal debate on the legacy of President Obama. Speakers were divided into two groups based upon whether they thought President Obama will leave a positive or negative legacy.  

College sophomore Laura Beck filled in for College junior Cornell Overfield as leader of the Proposition, arguing that Obama will have a positive legacy, and College and Wharton senior Cora Neumann served as leader of the Opposition, which argued that his legacy will be negative.

The debate was divided into two halves, with crossfire questioning in between. Speakers traded off giving timed speeches, with a gavel-wielding moderator enforcing time limits and decorum. Audience members and members of the opposite side could ask questions to challenge the points speakers made. Several speakers and audience members changed sides throughout the debate as their opinions were swayed by certain points and speakers.

Proposition arguments focused on Obama’s economic track record, healthcare plan success, charisma and commitment to equality.

“Obama has tangibly and quite objectively made America a better place for several historically marginalized groups,” Wharton freshman Dylan Milligan said, who argued that Obama’s policies have improved the quality of life for members of the LGBTQ community and people of color.

Other students strongly criticized the results of Obama’ presidency. Speakers often mentioned drone strikes, foreign policy failures and issues with healthcare and economic policy.

“I do not think you can look at his foreign policy and at his healthcare policy and say that his legacy will be a positive one for America,” College senior Luke Barbour said.

The debate had some lighthearted moments as well. One student began his speech by simply noting, "Obama is really cool."

College senior Sarah Simon, president of the Government and Politics Association of which PPU is a branch, discussed motivations for holding the event so close to the election.

“The reason we selected this topic was that we felt that everyone was burnt out on the presidential election, so we wanted to pick a topic that sort of got at it but would engender more disagreement than the presidential election,” Simon said.

Ultimately, the Proposition won the debate 28-14, with one voter abstaining.