President Barack Obama gave his farewell address last week in Chicago. Thursday was his last full day in office before handing the keys to his successor, Donald Trump, a man with a vastly different worldview and vision for the country.

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Love him or hate him, no one can deny that  Obama was a busy man in his eight years in the White House. The first African-American to be elected president, he triumphantly entered office on the promise of “hope and change,” armed with a boldly ambitious agenda to heal an anxious nation ready to move away from economic hardship and war. Expectations for the charismatic new president were almost impossibly high, guaranteeing at least some degree of disappointment and passionate reactions from both his strongest supporters and fiercest detractors.

As does every president, Obama had his fair share of achievements and setbacks. He inherited a cauldron of quandaries, including two long running wars and the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. In light of such obstacles, Obama racked up a legitimately impressive set of accomplishments … regardless of what you thought of them. Among the most notable: he helped rescue the hemorrhaging economy from the brink of collapse; withdrew thousands of US troops from two war zones and inked a landmark healthcare reform law providing health insurance to more than 20 million Americans.

But Obama also experienced multiple failures and defeats, particularly in the legislative arena, where Republican leaders, determined to rebuild their base and block his agenda, mounted formidable opposition. And while he campaigned on the promise of a post-racial, post-partisan age of “one America,” the nation under his leadership in many ways grew more divisive and turbulent, as did the Middle East and other conflict-ridden regions of the world he aspired to reach out to.

This timeline marks just some of the major milestones — the good, the bad, the ugly — of Obama’s active and turbulent eight years as the nation’s 44th president: how he changed America and the world, and how it in turn changed him.

TIMELINE: The Obama Years, A Retrospective (with Lesson Plan) 30 March,2017Matthew Green


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email:; Twitter: @MGreenKQED

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