It has been one year since history was made in the U.S. with the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th president of the United States.
And in the past 365 days, Obama has had to deal with rising unemployment, crises in the automotive and banking industries, attempted terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, the war on terror overseas, and reforming a healthcare system that would bring coverage to most Americans. He has also traveled the globe extensively advancing the U.S. agenda, and accepting a somewhat controversial Nobel Peace Prize.
He made many promises. Many he kept, including pledges to increase minority access to capital, establish a credit card bill of rights, and increase funding for community-based prevention programs. Some promises he broke, including a pledge to negotiate healthcare reform in televised sessions on C-SPAN, reduce earmarks, and recognize the Armenian genocide. And a lot of promises are still works in progress.
Obama began his job with a 68% approval rating, according to Gallup, but the honeymoon is over. During his first year in office, he averaged a 57% job approval, lower than George W. Bush, who had an average approval of 68%. (However, Bush began his job with a 57% rating.)
“I don’t want to celebrate, and I don’t want to coronate a president– black or otherwise–who sits in office while African Americans are suffering at the level that we are throughout this country in terms of joblessness, in terms of health disparities, in terms of wealth disparities,” said Vincent Hutchings, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan, of the anniversary of Obama’s inauguration.
Despite giving Obama credit for “diminishing some of the more negative implications associated with the economic downturn,” Hutchings is extremely critical of Obama because he believes the president didn’t keep promises made during his candidacy in terms of making government actions more transparent. He also takes issue with the likely failure to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the continuation of civil liberty violations that started in the previous administration.
But with the nation’s focus on the faltering economy, and the high rate of African American unemployment, the president is being urged to take an even stronger stand on job creation
Obama has three years left in office, and seven if he is reelected. “The key to him getting reelected is how many jobs he creates in three years,” says Warren Ballantine, attorney and host of the Warren Ballantine Show. “ If I was in his Cabinet, my first piece of advice would be: We need to focus on creating jobs and getting this country back to being industrialized where we are creating, manufacturing and exporting things instead of just importing everything in here.”
Though his poll numbers are low, the election of Obama is the cause of a sharp rise in optimism among African Americans, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey on race . That optimism may also be reflected in an upbeat set of views on other issues, including race relations and expectations for future black progress.
BlackEnterprise.com asked Ballantine, Hutchings, and other experts to grade Obama on his first year in office. Here’s what they had to say: