5 Ways Barack Obama Made A Positive Impact — After Leaving Office

Happy birthday, Obama! You'll always Barack our world.

Former president Barack Obama was born on August 4, 1961. While a lot has changed since then, we like to think his bright, positive attitude is just as present now as it was on day one. Obama accomplished a lot in his eight years as president, but in just a few months since leaving office, he's shown his commitment to improving the lives of his fellow Americans goes far beyond the White House.  


Obama during a May visit to Kensington Palace during which he and Prince Harry discussed – among other things – support for veterans, conservation, and empowering young people.

So in honor of Barack Obama's 56th birthday — and on a well-deserved Friday, no less — we're celebrating him and just a few of our favorite ways he's already made an impressive impact in his new position as a private citizen:

1. He donated $2 million to summer jobs programs in Chicago.

On May 3, 2017, Barack Obama announced that he and his wife, Michelle Obama, were donating $2 million to summer jobs programs in Chicago. "[It's] so that right away young people can get to work and we can start providing opportunities to all of them," he explained at the South Shore Cultural Center. 

He also unveiled plans for a 200,000-square-foot campus on Chicago's South Side housing the Obama Presidential Center to "train the next generation of leadership — the Michelle Robinsons of today and the Barack Obamas of today." By placing the center near Chicago's Woodlawn neighborhood (historically African-American), Obama aims to revitalize the Jackson Park neighborhood through new job creation and increased tourism in the area. 

2. He encouraged thoughtful, comprehensive, and most importantly, bipartisan health care reform.

Amidst the tumultuous health care debate, Obama emerged as a voice of reason, calling on the American people and politicians to come together for the common good. While still acknowledging the country's divided politics, he wrote on June 22, 2017 in a Facebook post, "I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that's what we need to do today." 

He also noted that the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act was one Democrats didn't fight alone, nor could continue to fight without bipartisan support. "Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones..." he added, citing the statistic that 90 percent of Americans now have health care, thanks to the ACA. "We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible."

Still, Obama didn't shy away from acknowledging the ACA's imperfections and restating "that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, [he] would gladly and publicly support it" — a seemingly selfless statement. 

"That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans," he concluded. "But I believe that's what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it's possible."

3. He honored Jay Z as the first rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, noting the importance of Black artists.

In a video message, Obama sent a heartfelt message to Jay Z (also known as Sean Carter), celebrating him and his achievements culminating in his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame — the first rapper to ever do so. "I like to think Mr. Carter and I understand each other. Nobody who met us as younger men would have expected us to be where we are today," he said, making a broader statement about the unique contributions artists of color bring to every industry — no matter what obstacles they may have had to overcome to get there. "We know what it's like not to have a father around, we know what it's like not to come from much, and to know people who didn't get the same breaks that we did," Obama continued. "And so we try to prop open those doors of opportunity so that it's a little easier for those who come up behind us to succeed as well." 

Obama then went on to explain the role Jay Z's music had played in his political career, from fueling him back when he was just "a young and hungry state senator" all the way to the oval office — and beyond. "Jay, you have been inspiring and making me want to be active in my retirement, just like you have been in yours," he said of the "true American original." Clearly, he's already started taking a few pages out of Jay Z's songbook.

4. He inspired other private citizens to take an active, individual role in fighting climate change after the United State's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.

Obama released a written statement on June 1, 2017 in which he reiterated not only his belief in the significance of "the first-ever global agreement to set the world on a low-carbon course" but his belief in the average American citizen to keep that commitment, regardless of their federal government's participation, or lack thereof. "It was bold American ambition that encouraged dozens of other nations to set their sights higher as well," he wrote. "And what made that leadership and ambition possible was America's private innovation and public investment in growing industries like wind and solar – industries that created some of the fastest new streams of good-paying jobs in recent years, and contributed to the longest streak of job creation in our history. Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future."

While Obama didn't shy away from calling the United State's withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Climate Accord a missed opportunity "for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale." Nonetheless, he remained positive that the American people would stay unified in their effort to combat climate change on a global scale. "I'm confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we've got," he concluded. 

5. And of course, he broke the internet — in the best way possible.

While traveling through the private flights area of the Anchorage International Airport in July, Obama took some time out of his busy post-POTUS schedule to snap an adorable selfie with Jolene Jackinsky and her 6-month-old daughter Giselle. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the resulting picture broke the internet — in the most awwww-some way possible, of course. 

Jackinsky told the Associated Press that she barely had time to be starstruck by the former president before Obama approached her to ask about Giselle. "Who is this pretty girl?" he reportedly asked. The parents spent the next few minutes chatting about parenting as Obama held the baby, even joking to Giselle's dad that he was going to take Giselle home with him. 

After Jackinsky posted the photos to her Facebook page, they quickly went viral, reminding many of the popular #ObamaandKids that took over the Internet last January. 

No matter what age he is or what job he has, some things about Obama never change — and we're certainly glad his positive, caring attitude is one of them. 

But as much as we admire Obama, there is one other thing we might not mind him changing: his, er, one-of-a-kind sense of humor...

Cover image via The White House.


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