7 moments that defined the Obama presidency

7 moments that defined the Obama presidency
Posted at 5:32 AM, Jan 10, 2017

President Barack Obama will give his farewell speech to thousands of his supporters on Tuesday in Chicago to highlight his administration's accomplishments over the last eight years. 

While Obama is set to hand off the reigns of the presidency at noon on Jan. 20 to Donald Trump, Obama leaves office relatively popular with a 55 percent approval rating, according to Gallup. 

While numerous events have molded the Obama presidency, here are seven moments that the Obama presidency could be best remembered for:

Signing the Affordable Care Act into law - March 23, 2010

President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law - Getty Images

Obama spent much of his first year in office trying to convince fellow Democrats and Americans to sign on to his key campaign promise to reform health care. Obama was looking to make a big overhaul to the nation's health care industry. After 14 months of sparring with Congress, Obama sort of finally got the health care reform he desired.

Obama was unable to convince Congress to approve the bill without an individual mandate. He also was unable to get the public option he desired. Regardless, Obama took credit and ownership for the bill, and later embraced the "Obamacare" moniker Republicans gave the legislation. 

But for Obama, the passage of the Affordable Care Act cost the president a lot of political capital. Obama's approval ratings dropped to 40 percent, and many Democrats faced opposition when they returned from Washington. 

Even seven years after the bill's passage, Republicans are looking to repeal the legislation citing increased premiums. Democrats are hoping to keep much of the bill's key provisions in tact, citing record low uninsured figures

Midterm elections - Nov. 2, 2010 


Republicans, led by John Boehner, captured the House

Seven months after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, Republicans buoyed by a wave of Tea Party support took the House of Representatives by gaining 63 seats from the Democrats. 

Republicans in the Senate took away six seats, but the Democrats kept a slim majority in the upper body of Congress. 

The new wave of Republicans were more confrontational with the president, and kept the president from moving forward on many policy initiatives. The conflict between Congress and the president led to one of the longest government shutdowns in the nation's history in 2013. Much of the 2013 shutdown was over Republican's desires to defund the Affordable Care Act.  

Mission to get Osama bin Laden - May 1, 2011


President Obama is joined by senior administration officials in the Situation Room

Given an opportunity to capture America's most wanted enemy, Obama ordered the mission on a compound in Pakistan where intelligence officials believe al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden was held. 

After a decade of war following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, a group of elite Navy Seals landed in the middle of the night and killed bin Laden. The announcement came with celebrations in the streets of New York and Washington. 

The announcement also marked a turnaround in Obama's term. His approval ratings shot up 7 percent after the raid, according to Gallup.

Attack on Benghazi - Sept. 11, 2012


Republicans were critical of the administration's response following the attack

One day after an attack on the United States consulate in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, Obama described the incident as an "act of terror." But Republicans were critical of how the administration, particularly UN ambassador Susan Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, handled the response to the incident. 

Rice was criticized for going on the Sunday morning news programs claiming that a video caused a spontaneous outburst from citizens that prompted the attacks in Libya. Rice was going off of talking points provided to her by the CIA during her interviews. 

Clinton was rebuked for not scrambling backup fast enough to protect American diplomats. Although the incident happened less than two months before Obama's re-election, it likely had a larger effect on the 2016 presidential election as Clinton's involvement in the Libya attacks was often cited by her opponent Donald Trump.

Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre - Dec. 14, 2012


The events that took place at Sandy Hook brought Obama to tears

Just one month after Obama's re-election, he faced one of the greatest tragedies during his presidency. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. took the life of 27 people, including 20 first-grade students and six educators. 

Later on the afternoon of Dec. 14, 2012, Obama gave an emotional address that brought the president to tears. In the weeks following the tragedy, Obama attempted to pass gun laws through Congress. 

But the GOP-held House of Representatives, along with many GOP senators, held firm in their stance to oppose major policy initiatives by Obama. Bills that would increase background checks and limit high-capacity firearms stalled in Congress. 

A dramatic increase in gun sales followed the incident. The number of background checks performed in the NICS database jumped dramatically in December 2012, according to FBI figures.

Obama tackles racial tensions - 2nd term - Aug. 12, 2014


Obama met with law enforcement and civil rights leaders

As the first African-American to be elected president, Obama interjected himself into the debate on social justice. After a grand jury failed to charge a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in the death of Michael Brown on Nov. 24, 2014 - three months after Brown's death - Obama spoke to the nation about the issue in a primetime address. 

Although Obama encouraged Americans to accept the grand jury's decision, Obama stressed cooperation between law enforcement and those seeking to undo social injustice. 

But instead of ending the racial divide, the incident in Ferguson involving Brown was just a beginning. In 2016, tensions flared again in the wake of the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. Following their deaths by police, protests broke out nationwide. At one such protest, five police officers were assassinated in Dallas. 

A week after the shootings in Dallas, Obama participated in a discussion on racial tensions, which brought criticism from those on both sides of the issue.

Same-sex marriage legalized nationwide - June 26, 2015


Supporters of gay marriage celebrated the Supreme Court's decision

Three years before same-sex marriage became legalized nationwide on June 26, 2015, Obama announced that he would be supportive of same-sex couples being permitted to get married. Obama was the first sitting president to make such an announcement. According to Pew, 2012 was the first time more Americans supported same-sex marriage than opposed. 

While it is unclear how much public opinion swayed the Supreme Court, Obama was able to use a trusted member of his administration to make a key argument on behalf of same-sex couples. Obama's support allowed for his Solicitor General Donald Verrilli to make an argument before the Supreme Court as to why same-sex marriage should be permitted under the U.S. Constitution. 

Verrilli's argument worked and the Supreme Court ordered all 50 states to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.