What will Obama be remembered for? 11 ways the president's legacy will be remembered.


As President Barack Obama prepares to leave the White House, during a trip to Peru, he was asked by a reporter if he thought that he would be the last Democratic president for a while.

"I am not worried about being the last Democratic president ... not even for a while," Obama said.

Obama embarked on his final foreign trip in the wake of President-elect Donald Trump's historic election victory, making stops in Greece, Germany and Peru. And he's clearly reflecting on the future of the United States — and what his legacy will be after eight years in office.

Here's a look at some of the events of Obama's tenure that will define his presidency.

2008 election

Obama made history in 2008 by becoming the first African-American president in U.S. history. His campaign slogan "Yes we can!" amid a feeling of "hope and change" resonated with war-weary voters after eight years of President George W. Bush.

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While Obama fulfilled his campaign to end the war in Iraq, history will not be kind to how the deal went down. Former President George W. Bush set the U.S. military pullout in motion, and there were many stipulations that the Iraqis and the U.S. did not agree upon. But Obama would remove nearly all U.S. troops from the country by the end of 2011, which critics say resulted in a vacuum that led to the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group.


The ongoing war in Afghanistan is America's longest war and one that Obama also pledged to end. But Obama initiated a surge in troops in 2009 that lasted until 2012, with violence continuing to plague the country. Obama began withdrawing U.S. troops in 2014, but delayed their withdrawal at several points over the next two years. The White House now says 8,400 troops will remain in the country at the end of the year. 

While Obama gets credit for taking down former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a surprise nighttime raid in Pakistan in 2011, his legacy regarding Afghanistan is still dependent on the future of this war-torn nation. 


In 2012, Obama said the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime of President Bashar al Assad would constitute a "red line" that the U.S. would not tolerate being crossed. A year later, after evidence emerged that Assad had gassed and killed over 1,400 civilians, Obama asked Congress for permission to take military action against the regime, but Assad agreed to hand over his chemical arsenal before a vote took place. 

The war in Syria has only worsened since. Secretary of State John Kerry spokes by phone recently with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, according to Reuters. The two agreed to continue to try to find a solution but still have issues over U.S.-backed "moderate" fighters.   

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"I recognize that [finding a political solution] has not worked," Obama said at a White House press conference on November 14. "It is something that I continue to think about every day and we continue to try to find some formula that would allow us to see that suffering end."

Iran nuclear deal

In 2015, Obama announced that Iran had agreed to curtail its nuclear weapons capabilities and submit to inspections in return for the lifting of economic sanctions that had crippled the country. The agreement between Iran and the major world powers will go down as one of Obama's defining foreign policy achievements.

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President-elect Donald Trump continually criticized the deal during his presidential campaign, promising to withdraw from the agreement once in office. Obama said that after meeting with Trump at the White House following the election, he felt that the president-elect would keep the deal intact.

"My suspicion is, is that when the president-elect comes in, and he's consulting with his Republican colleagues on the Hill, that they will look at the facts," Obama said during his post-election press conference. "Because to unravel a deal that's working and preventing Iran from pursuing a nuclear weapon would be hard to explain, particularly if the alternative were to have them freed from any obligations and go ahead and pursue a weapon."


The Affordable Care Act also came under fire from Trump on the campaign trail, but he has already said that there are parts of it that he would like to keep, including allowing coverage for preexisting conditions. Still, Trump says he wants to unravel and revamp the historic health care plan, though it's unclear how and when he would do that.

2014 midterm elections

Americans sent Obama a message in 2014, when Republicans won the largest majority in Congress in decades. 

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It was seen as a clear mandate against Obama, and the Affordable Care Act specifically. Republicans retook control of the Senate and retained control of the House, both of which they would successfully defend two years later in the 2016 elections. 

Marriage equality

Most of the nation rejoiced when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality in 2015, an issue that Obama championed. 

"We are big and vast and diverse; a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny," Obama said following the ruling.

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Race relations

Obama's legacy on race is still being played out after several high-profile police shootings. After George Zimmerman shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in a high-profile case in Florida in 2012, Obama told Americans that "if I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." 

The 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, revealed a deep rift in the nation along racial lines, one that Obama has struggled to mend. There have also been several other police shootings across the country, including Baltimore and Charlotte, North Carolina. A CNN/ORC poll from early October found that 54% say race relations are worse since Obama was elected in 2008. 

Government bailout

Obama took office during one of the worst financial crises in America. He put a massive bailout program in place that helped save several banks that were "too big to fail." 

The economy has since recovered, and while critics still question whether it was the right thing to do, most agree that Obama's aggressive action on saving the banks and the auto industry prevented the economy from spiraling even further.

Social media

Obama was skewered in the press for wearing "dad jeans" while throwing out the first pitch at a Major League Baseball All-Star game in 2009. Despite that fashion faux pas, Obama will go down in history as the first real "social media" president. 

He and first lady Michelle Obama have dominated social media and turned the tables on the traditional version of the presidency by appearing on all kinds of television shows and late-night programs.