homepage logo

Cafe Society to discuss President Obama’s legacy

By Staff | Aug 26, 2016

The Cafe Society’s next session on Aug. 30 will focus on President Obama’s successes and failures during his eight years as the Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

These informal weekly discussions, part of the Shepherd University Life Long Learning Program, are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. every Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the SU Student Center. There are no fees or registration requirements.

Although not a formal requirement, it has become customary for the President to make a farewell address to the nation reaching out to the citizens one last time just prior to handing over the awesome responsibilities of the office to his successor.

While his speech might not rise to the stature of the Washington’s famous farewell address, it will provide an important opportunity for President Obama to define his legacy and highlight those accomplishments that he believes should be remembered and continue to positively influence both domestic and foreign policies that ensure American’s security and comparative affluence in this troubled world.

Cafe Society facilitator, Mike Austin said, “I am sure that deep in the bowels of the White House speech writers and analysts are already earnestly working vetting lists and submissions provided by the departments and agencies separating the wheat from the chaff to find key elements to incorporate in his speech. It won’t be hard to isolate and prominently highlight the failures of this administration. The paternity of those creatures is always easy to determine as they are normally laid at the feet of others.

“Finding the successes to exclaim and asserting ownership will be more challenging. In order to more fully appreciate how difficult it is to formulate such statements of accomplishments and objectively evaluate them, next Tuesday we will, in our Cafe Society discussion replicate a session of the President’s Cabinet ‘role playing’ the President and his 16 senior department heads.

“It is a daunting effort to give equal weight to the essential work of the vast organizations that each of them represents and identify particular achievements that have a profound and lasting impact on the nation’s well being.

“Most of their endeavors are not newsworthy, until something goes wrong. So for example: caring for our 21 million veterans doesn’t make the list, nor does preventing crime, or cleaning up Chesapeake Bay or keeping deadly viruses off-shore.

“Many of the real achievements are measured by positive, but subtle trends rather than elimination of problems or passage of dramatic benchmarks. It will be hard to prevent foreign or defense policies and actions from dominating the discussion, but certainly access to health care will be a topic, as will appropriate handling of illegal immigrants, the state of the economy, protection of U.S. jobs, and energy policies.”

Austin went on to say, “The President will have to be forthright in talking about ‘what might have been achieved’ had it been possible to work more closely and constructively with Congress in addressing the persistent and contentious issues, funding the government and dealing with the legacy that they themselves had inherited: a collapsing world economy, intractable security crises dominated by terrorism, a stratifying society with growing numbers of disillusioned people unable to attain by their own endeavors an acceptable standard of living.

“Even though he was not a candidate, the President will still have to address many of the issues that emerged in this election.

“But Barack Obama was always a great ‘talker’. He talked his way into the White House from near oblivion as a junior senator from the mid-west, articulate, refreshingly different in style and demeanor. But we probably have seen too much of him in the ‘bully pulpit’ over the past eight years and the magic has dissipated.

“This farewell address will have to be short, brutally honest and if nothing else, humble. Change has proven again to be very difficult.”