Barack Obama is bidding farewell to the American people at the end of his tenure as President through a series of addresses, essays and memos. His official farewell address is to take place on January 10, in his hometown of Chicago. In an exit letter released on January 4, he outlined his proudest achievements and biggest regrets in the last eight years. The letter included 27 individual exit memos written by top officials who are part of his administration.
Jacquelyn Martin - AP
One aspect Obama strongly regrets is his failure to secure gun control. He previously shared this sentiment with BBC in July 2015 and with CNN in December 2016. In the letter, he wrote, “There’s still so much I wish we’d been able to do, from enacting gun safety measures to protect more of our kids and our cops from mass shootings like Newtown.”
Stressing the need to improve how the U.S. looks at immigration, he also wrote that the country needs “commonsense immigration reform that encourages the best and brightest from around the world to study, stay, and create jobs in America.” Adding that there remains more work to do on the employment front, he wrote, “For all the incredible progress our economy has made in just eight years, we still have more work to do for every American still in need of a good job or a raise, paid leave or a dignified retirement.”
During a Fox News interview in April 2016, he said that lack of planning to deal with the aftermath of Gaddafi’s ouster in Libya was the biggest mistake he made when in office. After Gaddafi’s exit, the country spiraled into chaos, coming under attack from extremists. In the same interview, he said his worst day in office was when he travelled to Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. This was after a gunman shot six staff members and 20 children in an elementary school.
The letter released on January 4 also listed what he considered notable achievements. These included securing Obamacare, shifting from coal to solar power, as well as pulling out of Afghanistan and Iraq. As before, he took pride in how his administration helped the country recover from the 2008 financial crisis. He wrote, “Eight years later, an economy that was shrinking at more than 8 percent is now growing at more than 3 percent. Businesses that were bleeding jobs unleashed the longest streak of job creation on record.”
The letter mentioned how no terrorist organization successfully planned and executed any attack on American soil in the last eight years. Obama reminded people that “terrorists like Osama bin Laden have been taken off the battlefield.” The letter also highlighted the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations and the Iran nuclear deal.
Acknowledging that he could not accomplish all he wanted to as President, he wrote, “Still, through every victory and every setback, I’ve insisted that change is never easy, and never quick; that we wouldn’t meet all of our challenges in one term, or one presidency, or even in one lifetime.”
What will Obama do once he leaves the White House? In a June 2016 interview with Bloomberg, he said, “Had I not gone into politics, I’d probably be starting some kind of business.” He also added that “the skill set of starting my presidential campaigns — and building the kinds of teams that we did and marketing ideas — I think would be the same kinds of skills that I would enjoy exercising in the private sector.”