Few presidents have entered the White House carrying as many expectations as Barack Obama. The first black president and the first of his generation, Obama arrived promising to end wars, restore economic stability, improve health care, expand equality, reimagine our politics and, yes, bring new hope and change.
After eight years, what did he achieve?
As Obama prepares to leave office, The Associated Press will explore the answers to that question. A series of all-formats stories on the Obama legacy examines Barack and Michelle Obama’s full impact on politics, policy, American life and the presidency. The stories look at both where Obama made his mark, and also where his successor, Donald Trump, is poised to erase it.
Below is a digest of the stories available for use starting Dec. 21, 2016, and an additional package of stories available for use starting on Jan. 4, 2017:
OBAMA LEGACY-ECONOMY – Barack Obama’s first job as president: piece together the shards of a shattered U.S. economy. It wasn’t smooth and it wasn’t fast, but Obama was ultimately successful. The president will leave behind an economy far stronger than the one he inherited, with an unemployment rate of 4.6 percent and 20 million more people with health insurance. But those achievements did not erase the scars of the 2009 economic collapse — Americans’ deep distrust in their government, banks and institutions. Obama proved better at restoring economic stability than making Americans believe he’d done it. By Josh Boak. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos, video on Dec. 21.
OBAMA LEGACY-FOREIGN POLICY – President Barack Obama’s foreign policy legacy may be defined as much by what he didn’t do as what he did. Over eight years, Obama ushered in a new era of diplomacy, re-establishing the United States as the driving force behind fighting climate change and reducing the threat of nuclear weapons. But he also ran headlong into his limitations as the world’s chief diplomat. His cautious and pragmatic approach to world affairs ultimately couldn’t deliver on the founding promise of his presidency: Ending wars. By Bradley Klapper. UPCOMING: 1,100 words, photos on Dec. 22.
MICHELLE OBAMA-LEGACY – When Michelle Obama considered the daunting prospect of becoming first lady, she purposely avoided turning to books by her predecessors for guidance. Instead, she turned inward. “I didn’t want to be influenced by how they defined the role,” Mrs. Obama once said, explaining that she had to define it “very uniquely and specifically to me and who I was.” That meant doing it her way. When she leaves the White House next month, just a few days after celebrating her 53rd birthday, Mrs. Obama will do so not just as a political figure, but as an international brand. It was a path that friends say she charted largely on her own. By Darlene Superville. UPCOMING: 1,200 words, photos on Dec. 23.
MICHELLE OBAMA-FASHION – From glittering state dinner gowns to sporty cardigans, fashion was good to Michelle Obama — and she was great for fashion. A booster of countless designers and a powerful, stylish example for middle-aged women, she influenced the fashion world like no other first lady before her, designers say. By National Writer Jocelyn Noveck. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos on Dec. 23.
MICHELLE OBAMA-LEGACY FOR KIDS – The feel-good initiatives of first lady Michelle Obama have served as both inspiration and eight years of teaching moments for many families. So what, exactly, do they think is her legacy over a period of time that represents a good chunk of lifespan for today’s kids? By Leanne Italie. UPCOMING: 800 words on Dec. 23.
OBAMA LEGACY-POLITICS – In boasting about his tenure in the White House, there are numbers President Barack Obama often cites: 15 million new jobs, a 4.6 unemployment rate and 74 months of consecutive job growth. And one number you will almost never hear: More than 1,030 seats. That’s the number of spots in state legislatures, governor’s mansions and Congress lost by Democrats during Obama’s presidency. It’s a startling statistic that reveals an unexpected twist of the Obama years: The leadership of the one-time community organizer was rough on the grassroots of his party. When Obama exits the White House, he’ll leave behind a battered Democratic Party that languished in his shadow for years and is searching for a new message. By Lisa Lerer. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos on Dec. 24.
OBAMA LEGACY-RACE – He entered the White House a living symbol, breaking a color line that stood for 220 years. Barack Obama took office, and race immediately became a focal point in a way that was unprecedented in American history. No matter his accomplishments, he seemed destined to be remembered foremost as the first black man to lead the world’s most powerful nation. But Obama’s racial legacy is as complicated as the president himself. By Sharon Cohen and Deepti Hajela. UPCOMING: 2,900 words, photos, video, interactive on Jan. 4. With OBAMA LEGACY-RACE-ABRIDGED.
OBAMA LEGACY-POP CULTURE – From his fist bump at the 2008 Democratic National Convention to the mic drop at his last White House Correspondents Dinner, Barack Obama has dominated as America’s pop culture president. He has provided a running chronicle of the ephemera of our times: slow-jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon, reading mean tweets with Jimmy Kimmel, cruising in a Corvette with Jerry Seinfeld, filling out his NCAA basketball bracket live on ESPN. It wasn’t just frivolity, though. In an increasingly fragmented media world, Obama used pop culture platforms to press serious parts of his agenda. By Nancy Benac. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos, interactive on Jan. 4.
OBAMA LEGACY-SOCIAL MEDIA – The first American president of the social media age, Obama spent his tenure breaking ground on how politicians connect with a digitally savvy electorate. He has used social media as a tool to educate, to amuse, to spin, and, undoubtedly, to shape his legacy. And judging by his successor’s Twitter account, it’s one of the few legacies he’s leaving that President-elect Donald Trump has embraced. By Kevin Freking. UPCOMING: 1,000 words, photos, interactive on Jan. 4.
OBAMA LEGACY-LGBT – President Barack Obama took office in 2009 as a self-described “fierce advocate” for gay rights, yet for much of his first term drew flak from skeptical activists who viewed him as too cautious, too politically expedient. By the time the White House was basked in rainbow colors to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling allowing gay marriage, those criticisms had fallen away. Obama is viewed by gays and lesbians as a champion of their rights and well-being, and criticized by those who say his policies infringe on their religious beliefs. By David Crary. UPCOMING: 950 words, photos, interactive on Jan. 4.
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