Revisit the highs and lows of President Barack Obama’s presidency through photos
Much has changed over the past eight years in the United States.
American soldiers were pulled out of Iraq, though some returned to the region as the Islamic State threat grew. We’ve come out of one of the worst recessions in the country’s history and our economy seems to be growing again. We’ve seen mass shootings become a nearly daily occurrence and social media use become commonplace, the impacts of which will likely take years to determine.
At the center of all these changes was President Barack Obama, who will leave the White House next week after spending the past eight years in office.
The photos below begin with Obama’s nomination in 2008 and end with the farewell speech he gave Tuesday.
Nomination — 2008
Obama beat out former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to claim the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008 at the party’s national convention in Denver. He was the first ever African-American to be nominated for the White House.
He ran on a platform of change and offered that promise during his nomination acceptance speech.
“That’s the promise of America, the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise and fall as one nation, the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper. That’s the promise we need to keep, that’s the change we need right now.”
Election — 2008
Obama officially won his first presidential term on Nov. 4, 2008, defeating U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). His victory speech at Grant Park in Chicago was attended by thousands.
First inauguration — 2009
Obama was sworn in as the first African-American president on Jan. 20, 2009. The elation of the day was short-lived, as Obama soon confronted the sobering realities of governing as he struggled to get the economy back on track and win support for his ambitious legislative priorities.
Shortly after his inauguration, Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that pumped $787 billion into the nation’s foundering economy.
Nobel Peace Prize — 2009
On Dec. 10, 2009, Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” chiefly his outreach to the Muslim world and his attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.
Obama was the third U.S. president to win the award since it was created in 1901.
First State of the Union — 2010
On Jan. 27, 2010, the American people were given their first chance to hear Obama’s perspective on where the nation stood and where it was headed.
Signs Affordable Care Act — 2010
On March 23, 2010, Obama put pen to paper on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, bringing an end to a long fight over the controversial health care reform bill. The battle over the bill, commonly referred to as Obamacare, would rage for the remainder of his presidency.
Election Day — 2010
In a reactionary vote against a Democratic Congress, the nation voted a large number of Republicans to the House of Representatives during the mid-term elections. Obama would battle a GOP-controlled House for the next six years.
Second term? — 2011
Despite his battles with Republicans, Obama announced he intended to run for a second term in the White House on April 4, 2011. If elected, Obama would have been the 17th president to serve two terms.
Bin Laden dead — 2011
In a Sunday night address, Obama informed the world that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden — one of the masterminds of the 9/11 terror attack — was killed in a raid by U.S. special forces on May 1, 2011.
“Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader. He was a mass murderer of Muslims,” Obama said during his address. “So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.”
Americans around the country took to the streets to celebrate.
Out of Iraq — 2011
Following through on one of his campaign promises, Obama ordered the last American troops to leave Iraq in 2011. On Dec. 18, the final soldier left the country ahead of a deadline set by then-President George W. Bush.
To the courts — 2012
Obama’s administration faced two major court battles in 2012. One was over the legality of the Affordable Care Act and the other was against Arizona. The state signed into law Senate Bill 1070, a widely-reaching immigration action that allowed police to ask the immigration status of people they stopped, among other things.
Nomination, part deux — 2012
On Sept. 6, 2012, Obama accepted the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination for the second time at its convention in Charlotte.
Benghazi — 2012
On the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the U.S. embassy and its annex in Benghazi, Libya was attacked by a large mob. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others were killed in the violence.
While original reports said outrage over an insulting video posted to YouTube was the cause of the attack, it was later revealed the assault was planned by Ansar al-Sharia, a militant Islamic group.
The ensuing outrage would carry over to the 2016 election, where Republicans used then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s perceived failures as a campaign weapon. Clinton was cleared of any wrongdoing in the event by numerous panels.
Second term — 2012
The American people again voted for Obama to lead the nation on Election Day 2012. Obama handily defeated his Republican rival, Mitt Romney. In his speech, Obama alluded to his second campaign message, hope.
“You, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back, and we know in our hearts that for the United States of America the best is yet to come.”
Sandy Hook school shooting — 2012
On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. and opened fire. He killed 20 children and six staff members. It was the deadliest mass shooting at a grade or high school in U.S. history.
In a speech several days later, a visibly shaken Obama delivered a heartfelt address to the parents of the victims and the nation as a whole.
“As a community, you’ve inspired us, Newtown. In the face of indescribable violence, in the face of unconscionable evil, you’ve looked out for each other, and you’ve cared for one another, and you’ve loved one another. This is how Newtown will be remembered.”
He would have to make similar addresses several times during his tenure in the White House.
Boston Marathon bombings — 2013
On April 15, two pressure-cooker bombs were detonated near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three were killed and nearly 200 were injured.
For the next week, Boston was turned into a crime scene as the search for the suspects was carried out. On April 19, one suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed after an intense shootout with law enforcement. His brother, Dzhokhar, was later captured following a manhunt that placed Watertown, a suburb of Boston, on lockdown.
Obama — who attended nearby Harvard Law School — gave a speech several days after the bombing and said every American carries a little bit of Boston with them.
“Boston may be your hometown, but we claim it, too. It’s one of America’s iconic cities. It’s one of the world’s great cities. And one of the reasons the world knows Boston so well is that Boston opens its heart to the world,” he said.
Fighting ISIS — 2014
On Aug. 7, 2014, Obama authorized the use of airstrikes against the Islamic State, which had become a growing terrorist threat. However, he insisted he would not send American soldiers back into a full-scale war in Iraq.
“When we have the unique capacity to avert a massacre, the United States cannot turn a blind eye,” he said when announcing the strikes.
Later in 2014, Obama announced a larger plan to battle ISIS. However, the terror group would remain a global threat for the remainder of Obama’s second term.
GOP control — 2014
In a second midterm election blow, Democrats lose control over the Senate on Election Day 2014. For the next two years of his presidency, Obama would fight an uphill battle against a Republican-controlled Congress.
Cool with Cuba? — 2014
On Dec. 17, 2014, Obama announced his administration would begin taking steps to normalize relations with Cuba. The countries had been an odds since the Cold War.
Obama and his family would visit the island nation in 2016. He was the first president to do so since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
Iran nuclear deal — 2015
During the summer of 2015, Obama announced a coalition of nations — including the United States — had reached a deal with Iran to limit its development of nuclear weapons. The terms of the deal were not deemed favorable by Republicans in Congress, who were openly critical of the deal.
Final State of the Union — 2016
On Jan. 12, 2016, Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. Though he tempered expectations of lawmakers because of the upcoming election, he still set forth several ideas — such as continuing to improve the nation’s economy — before calling for unity.
“The rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said. “There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
Visiting Hiroshima — 2016
On May 27, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, one of the cities destroyed by an atomic bomb dropped by American pilots during World War II. He called for an end to nuclear weapons in a speech.
He’s with her — 2016
In June 2016, Obama endorsed Democratic presidential hopeful Clinton. He would campaign with her several times.
Clinton went on to lose the election to Republican Donald Trump.
Handing off — 2016
Obama met with President-elect Trump on Nov. 10 to discuss the exchanging of power. He later described the meeting as “excellent.” The scheduled 10-minute meeting turned into a 90-minute discussion.
Signing off — 2017
On Jan. 10, Obama gave his farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago. His message again focused on hope and his delivery was assertive and sometimes wistful.
“The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody,” Obama said. “For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back. But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all and not just some.”
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