In the context of a college education, four years is an eternity. In terms of a presidency, it passes in the blink of an eye. Last week, Barack Obama won the presidency and, with it, four more years to shape our country. Supporters of the president have high hopes for what he may accomplish during his second term, but what goals can we realistically expect him to meet with a time limit looming in only four short years?
Students and professors alike expressed a wide range of what they deemed the most important issues for the president to tackle during this term. From education reform to clean energy to jobs and the economy, every voter has his or her own idea of what should be Obama’s first post-election priority.
Gary Sauer, a junior studying pre-physical therapy, expressed concerns about post-secondary education and the economy, but his biggest worry lies with the president’s ability to lead.
“I really want to see this bipartisan thing; coming together to really work on this,” Sauer said. “I think that that’s where (Obama) is going to have to go and kind of embrace the Republican side to bring everybody together and get the country back where it needs to be.”
According to Sauer, bipartisan decision-making will grease the wheels for Congress to settle the important matters they are faced with during Obama’s second term. But Sauer is less than optimistic about the probability of major progress being made considering the short amount of time available.
“In four years, I don’t know if it’s realistic. I hope so,” he said. “I hope we can put a path or a plan together to get there. Will it be accomplished in four years? Maybe not. We’ll see. Four years is a tough job to get anything done I think.”
Vern Mullins, a student hoping to attend medical school, offered a list of goals he hopes the president can achieve in the next four years, including lower unemployment, growth in the housing industry and continued support and funding for the military. But he, like Sauer, displayed a less-than-hopeful outlook about whether it’s realistic to expect much change during a single presidential term.
“I don’t think it’s all upon Obama. It’s on everyone else who’s going to be in there,” Mullins said. “With his track record, I don’t think it’s feasible.”
But while so many students are pessimistic about Obama’s ability to accomplish important goals during his second term, they are quick to offer up what they see to be his biggest accomplishments during his first four years, including health care reform, legislation promoting equal pay for women and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. These offer a basis for a wealth of new achievements and the possibility of our president leaving behind a monumental legacy, according to Dr. David Adler, director of the Andrus Center for Public Policy.
“The first thing he’s going to tackle is the budget problem, and that really means the deficit. And this will be number one, two and three on his agenda because there’s no way to avoid having to address it,” Adler said.
According to Adler, the country’s untenable debt presents Obama with an opportunity. Having no choice but to solve the deficit—and soon—will require him to take major steps toward improving the economy, which is one issue on the minds of many voters. Adler said the recovery won’t be fast moving, but once the debt crisis is solved, we’ll be on the path toward improved jobless rates and the possibility of a jobs stimulus that puts millions of Americans to work.
Adler also believes this term will be the one to see amnesty for illegal immigrants. Though Republicans in Congress have largely opposed such legislation in the past, this election and the 71 percent of Latino votes that swayed to the left shed light on the problem the GOP has in reaching minority voters —what Adler calls a “demographic problem.”
“I think the politics of the time will force the GOP to accept a way to achieve (citizenship for illegal immigrants); otherwise the GOP’s demographic problem will become even more pronounced in the midterm elections,” Adler said. “I think that will be pursued and I think that will happen. And that will be a monumental achievement, because even President Bush was trying to work a way to achieve amnesty for illegal immigrants.”
Between these and existing achievements from Obama’s first term, Adler sees the next four years as an opportunity to make great strides for the nation. But, like many others, he stresses the necessity of bipartisan cooperation in Congress in addition to the president’s leadership.
“We shouldn’t just say it’s Obama’s responsibility, because he can’t just wave a magic wand. But if he leaves office in four years and the economy has improved and if we get the immigration problem addressed and healthcare proves to be useful and workable, then his legacy will be very, very impressive.”