AN INSIDE LOOK - Commentary and opinions on local politics and life in general in Southeastern Massachusetts! Featuring the writings of Bill Gouveia, newspaper columnist for the Sun Chronicle and local cable TV talk show host. Feel free to read, comment and enjoy!
As this is written, Donald Trump has officially been installed as the 45th President of the United States. He is now in the process of writing his chapter of American history, to be defined by his time in office.
There will no doubt be countless inches and hours of space and time utilized in newspapers and other media across this country during the Trump presidency. We will have plenty of time for all that in the years ahead.
But right now I'd just like to say "Thank You" to the man Trump replaces. I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the tremendous accomplishments of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Without trying to minimize the historical and social impact of this country electing its first ever African-American president, that is not what I will recall looking back at the Obama years. Perhaps being Caucasian prevents me from having the same perspective as much of the country on this important fact.
But I will remember the last eight years as a time of great political upheaval and change. This period in our history will be immortalized as the time when it became unimportant to actually achieve things as a federal government. Instead it became about stopping the opposing political party from receiving credit for anything. It will always be the era when near-exclusive partisanship became the not just the norm, but the rule.
And into that unbridled era of anger, hatred and distrust stepped a young, soft-spoken black man from Chicago with a Muslim-sounding middle name. Those are hardly attributes that would set you up in a good position in what had become a nasty, paranoid, post-9/11 world and country.
Add to that the fact he stepped into the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. Our banks and our auto industry were failing. Our entire economic system teetered on the brink of insolvency. America's position in the world - economically, militarily, and with regard to leadership - was in serious peril.
It would be a great story to be able to say President Obama stepped into that fray and solved all those problems. But he didn't. It is unlikely anyone could have done so. Especially with a Congress publicly committed to nothing but making sure this president was not successful - at all costs.
He couldn't get our deficit down to workable levels. He never managed to bring the unity he promised so often to the country. He was late to the party on many social issues, and many blame him for the current weakened state of the Democratic party.
But he did better than most could have honestly expected. And he paid a serious and painful price for doing so.
He pushed through legislation that gave health care to millions of Americans who did not have it. He added hundreds of thousands of jobs to the economy. He allowed our financial institutions to remain solvent, safeguarded the savings of millions of Americans, kept the auto industry afloat, and never had even a hint of personal scandal under the most intense scrutiny in the world.
He left office with unemployment historically low, and the stock market historically high. Gasoline prices are down close to the $2 per gallon mark. We have fewer troops risking their lives in foreign wars, and equality in marriage is now the law.
But perhaps most impressive is how the President and his First Lady conducted themselves while serving the country.
A lot of people might not have liked his politics, but few can legitimately question the integrity of President Obama. In a country where many leaders have been rocked by scandals both personal and political, this president maintained the highest ethical standards. And it certainly wasn't because his opponents and detractors weren't looking for proof to the contrary.
Clearly, this is a couple deeply committed to each other and their children. Their love and devotion is undeniably genuine, and set an exemplary standard for the rest of America.
So thank you, President Obama. Thank you for your hard work, your quiet dignity, and your grace in the spotlight. You performed a thankless job with class, and left your country better than you found it.
I wish you and your family the best.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and longtime local official. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.