OUR GREAT MINDS

    by Tina Olivero

    BARACK OBAMA: He Levelled The Playing Field

    I was living in Abu Dhabi at the time that Barack Obama became elected to the Presidency of the United States of America. It was Jan. 20, 2009.

    While I hadn’t followed the election closely as I was halfway around the world, I distinctly remember the tears of freedom roll down my face when I heard the news. 

    I say tears of freedom because that’s precicely what they were. Freedom from racism, women’s oppression, sexual orientation suppression, financial corruption and so many other barriers to human progress came crashing to the ground when Barack Obama became leader of the US. 

    I knew intuitively way back when, that Barack Obama would bring all of this to the table, and more.

    THE PEOPLE’S PRESIDENT

    Barack Obama was far more than a President. He was the opportunity to rise above the darkness and liberate ego-minded limitations. His tenure was a chance to embrace the planetary consciousness that was trying desperately to come in, if humankind would just get out of thier own way.

    Barack shattered political beliefs that power came from the White House, and he put it back in the hands of every American. He said, “Change doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington,” and he led the government from that vantage point. 

    He guided the nation with a policy of integrity. He said, “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.” It was an era of openness, and when Obama appointed the nation’s first Technology Officer, the stage was set for unprecedented transparent government operations. 

    The Obama administration broke down long-standing barriers to public access and opened up previously inaccessible records. 

    His was the first government to voluntarily disclose the list of people who visit the White House. The administration declassified information on the current size of the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal as well they published the intelligence budget requests. President’s Daily Briefs were also made exempt from declassification, which then sparked a historical precedent where thousands of previous President’s Daily Briefs became declassified and made available.

    The Obama Administration established a National Declassification Center to facilitate and streamline declassification, making it one of the most historical and transparent systems to date.

    GET ON WITH IT

    Barack spoke to people as he would talk to his own daughters, full of compassion, hope, and wisdom. He shared his philosophy for getting things done, “The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.”

    And press on he did. During his tenure as President, Barack changed the course of history. Founded on the understanding that those who voted for him were the reason he could be the best President possible, Barack was ‘people empowered.’ In the people’s eyes, Barack Obama came to life. 

    LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD

    Barack’s reverence for his wife, Michelle Obama, and his two daughters, the 44th president of the U.S. and the first African American president, was clearly an advocate for diversity and equality. 

    Obama historically appointed the first Hispanic woman in the United States to the highest court in the land, the Supreme Court of America. Her name is Sonia Sotomayor. 

    Obama understood diversity before it was in vogue: He appointed the most diverse cabinet to serve the U.S. government in history. On marriage equality, gay couples got all the same options as straight couples.

    ACCESS TO POWER

    Before his presidency, Barack Obama was educated as an American attorney, and he understood the power of education to elevate us all. Under President Obama’s administration, he achieved the highest record of high school graduates in American history. The rate hit 83%.

    With financial security top of mind, President Obama, during his two-term tenure, turned the economy around and reduced unemployment from 10% to 4.7%. America enjoyed 82 straight months of consecutive job growth, unprecedented considering the volatility of job gains and losses in the country in previous years. 

    Obama reduced the federal deficit from 9.8 % GDP in 2009 to 3.2 % in 2016.

    Obama got tough with banks. Banks now have to take ‘stress tests’ so that they can no longer take down the economy when they collapse because of risky practices. Banks are also now no longer permitted to use your money to make risky bets for the sake of profit. Barack said, “Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did.”

    Under President Obama, your credit card could no longer increase rates without telling you. Companies could no longer fire you because you are gay or trans.

    Obama’s administration shut down for-profit-colleges identified as taking student loan money and who unethically failed to deliver an appropriate eduction to people enrolled in thier programs. 

    HEALTHY LIFESTYLES

    President Obama was an advocate for health care and human rights, operating from compassion rather than judgment. 

    Under President Obama, federal prisons declined in population. Solitary confinement was banned for juveniles serving time in federal prison. 

    Obama also saved Medicare by reducing the costs associated with the Medicare program. He issued the executive order to improve access to mental health services for Veterans, Service Members, and Military families. American Veterans’ homelessness was cut in half and reduced by 47% since 2010.

    For the first-time, tobacco manufacturers had to declare what was in the cigarettes they made. It was no surprise to learn there were some 600+ chemicals used to keep people addicted.

    Obama overturned the ban on research for stem cells advancement which ultimately opened up an entirely new world of medical possibilities.

    WHATEVER WAR CAN DO, PEACE CAN DO BETTER

    An advocate for peace, Obama worked tirelessly to break down the perils of war and have people understand its dire consequences. He said, “Learning to stand in somebody else’s shoes, to see through their eyes, that’s how peace begins. And it’s up to you to make that happen.”

    Only when we shine the light on darkness will things transform to light. When we witnessed fallen soldiers coming home on television, it became evident what the cost of the war was to us all. When the remains of U.S. service members were flown back home, it used to be a secret, and no cameras were allowed. That secrecy order was not only abolished, ensuring the crisis of war to be apparent in every living room but appropriately, the expenses of sending fallen soldiers home were also paid.

    The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell ban was repealed in the military, doing away with discriminatory actions in the military, as was the ban on transgender soldiers serving openly. All combat positions were open to women. 

    Obama shut down all secret overseas prisons, and he ordered the closure of ‘black sites’ where CIA and European security services have interrogated suspected terrorists under Bush’s orders.

    Obama created bi-annual security summits and convinced other nations to get rid of nuclear material. Under Obama’s administration, Syria agreed to destroy its lethal chemical weapons.  The U.S. government banned torture by all U.S. personnel in all circumstances. 

    A Unites States embassy opened up in Cuba, creating new relations and normalizing business between the two countries.

    OBAMA IN NEWFOUNDLAND

    Having served two terms in office, Obama’s leadership has empowered not only Americans but people all over the world. We’ve been inspired to no longer accept the status quo and to take things on at a personal level. Everyone can make a difference, “yes we can.”

    Having given so much of his life to serving the public, one might wonder what’s next for such a great leader.

    Since leaving office in 2017, Barack Obama has taken some time off, and he has also traveled the world, working to inspire other businesses and association members. 

    He is said to be writing a book and has committed to developing programs that will make a positive difference in the world.

    ST. JOHN’S BOARD OF TRADE

    The local business association, The St. John’s Board of Trade, organized Obama’s up-close-and-personal talk to thousands of admiring people in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, at Mile One Stadium.

    Obama spoke about climate change, the issues of the internet, false media, globalization, and of course, the audacity of hope.

    Accompanied by local entrepreneur Zita Cobb, who was asking all the questions, Barack Obama sat with enthusiastic listeners for about an hour, answering questions and offering solutions, as he most eloquently could.

    I was sitting there, taking notes as Obama spoke. What struck me most about this man was his air of calmness and assuredness, not only about the world and its possibilities, but also about who we are as influential individuals who can shape the future ourselves. One person at a time.

    Barack’s primary concern for the world right now is climate change, “Climate change is one issue that if we don’t rapidly get at it, then the consequences will be very difficult to reverse. I don’t think there is much left to debate about the facts. There are conversations to have on how we respond.”

    Obama expressed the need to understand globalization and all of its challenges and opportunities. He said, “We do not have a handle on how globalization is rapidly changing the relationship between capital, labor, and communities, and we are going to have to rebuild how we think about responsible capitalism to maintain the democratic structures we have.”

    PRESIDENT OF THE WORLD?

    You only need to mention Barack Obama’s name to see people’s faces light up with enthusiasm and hope. He is a great man, and we expect to see a lot more of him as his life with Michelle moves onto foundations of contribution in all its various forms.

    While his presidency has completed in the U.S., Barack still iconically looks, feels, and speaks like ‘our president.’  Indeed he is the world’s president. And this is so because of his fairness, truthful demeanour and ultimately his belief in every one of us. 

    Barack Obama said, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

    PHOTOS: Dave Howells Photography for St. John’s Board of Trade

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    1 comment
    • Gary Lane

      Excellent piece, Tina! President Obama accomplished so much in such a short time. Unfortunately the current excuse for leader continues to tear down those accomplishments. Hope must be maintained that a light will be shone on the current darkness.


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