The History-Making Run of America’s First Black President Comes to a Close

The president listens during a meeting with staff in the Rose Garden on Oct. 8, 2014. Pete Souza/The White House
The president listens during a meeting with staff in the Rose Garden on Oct. 8, 2014.
Pete Souza/The White House

Jordan Weaver was just a kid when Barack Obama was elected eight years ago. But she’ll never forget that November night.

“My biggest memory is us in my living room,” said Weaver, who grew up in Harrisburg, Penn. “My mom was crying. She was so happy that a president could be African-American and people accepted him. You could just see that everyone was so excited.”

Eight years later, Weaver joined thousands of people who turned out to see Obama speak in Philadelphia earlier this week.

“I don’t think people give him enough credit, but I love him,” Weaver, now a student at Temple University, said.

Jamie Littles brought her young son to the outdoor rally near Philadelphia’s Museum of Art so he could see the president for himself.

“Just so he can get a better understanding of who Obama is and what he means in history for black Americans,” Littles said.

For Chuck Coleman, as well, it means a lot.

“For me as an African-American male, it’s just a proud moment,” said Coleman. “To see him serve and to raise our country to a level he was able to perform.”

Coleman paused, though, and cleared his throat when asked how his own life has changed during Obama’s been in office.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I don’t think any one person can change all the conditions in this country. He’s done the best that he can do under the circumstances,” Coleman said.

A number of people at the rally cited the Affordable Care Act as an example of tangible ways in which their lives have improved under Obama.

“I didn’t have insurance and now I have insurance, because I had pre-existing issues,” said Nicky Robertson. “So now I’m thankful. Thank Barack.”

Obamacare has pushed the rate of health insurance in the United States to record highs. And African-Americans have seen some of the biggest gains.

High school and college graduation rates for blacks have also improved on Obama’s watch.

But other measures are less encouraging. Black unemployment has come down since the worst of the recession but it still tops 8 percent, more than three percentage points above the national average. Homeownership rates for African-Americans have taken a hit. And while the average black family’s income rose more than 4 percent last year, the income gap between African-American and white families is as wide today as it was four decades ago.

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