Pablo Martinez Monsivais/ Associated Press
For better or worse, Friday marks the end of Barack Obama’s presidency, an era that began eight years ago with a beam of hope at America’s first African-American commander in chief.
Arguably, a string of accomplishments followed.
Obama worked to reverse the Great Recession, brought home U.S. troops from Iraq, dispatched 9/11 terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, presided over marriage equality and, through his signature Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, expanded health insurance to millions of Americans.
Along the way, there was applause and jeers.
Now, after a bitter, polarizing election, keys to the White House are changing hands and Republican Donald J. Trump is ascending to the highest office in the land — and that might be the best thing that can be said of the state of the union.
Obama called it “the peaceful transfer of power from one freely elected president to the next” during his farewell address last week.
Here are the opinions of local citizens, who reflected on the ups and downs of Obama’s presidency.
Screenshot/ Photo of Burt Buckley (left) at the old Clam Shack on Pleasant St. in Attleboro
Republican Burt Buckley of Attleboro, a one-time, unsuccessful, candidate for state representative, knows the knocks of politics first-hand.
Three years later, Buckley says he’s focusing on running his family-owned restaurant, The Clam Shack, in Attleboro.
Politics can be a lot like eating out, he said.
“Even if you don’t like the food on the menu, you can at least respect the people that enjoy it,” the 48-year-old said.
Buckley opposes the Affordable Care Act, saying “it’s not something that should go down as a great part of his legacy.”
But, he said he still respects that Obama went forward with what he promised during his first campaign. Nonetheless, as a small business owner under Obama’s watch, Buckley said the increase in taxes has been painful.
“Taxes upon taxes upon taxes does not build a business,” he said.
Though not all of Obama’s policies meshed with what Buckley believes in, he said he respects the president’s legacy.
“I’m not one to say that all was lost,” Buckley said. “I think that this country has grown. I think that under Obama’s presidency we are a lot more politically aware and accepting today than ever before.”
Martin Gavin/ The Sun Chronicle Staff: Photo of Jim Hawkins, a retired AHS math teacher.
Jim Hawkins of Attleboro retired two years ago from teaching math at Attleboro High School.
Hawkins, 67, is a Democrat, and believes the past eight years have gone “very smoothly” under Obama.
Hawkins describes Obama as an “articulate and excellent speaker,” who always “stays on agenda.”
He added that Obama is “smart, knowledgeable and brilliant,” a man who knew the ins and outs of his morning briefings and was most likely smarter than the guy sitting next to him.
If there is anything Hawkins would change about Obama’s presidency it would have been Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Hawkins disagreed with Duncan’s Common Core standards to evaluate students and teachers.
As the Trump Inauguration nears, Hawkins fears a Trump presidency will reverse much of what Obama — not the least of which is repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s very scary that people may be limited from having the care they need,” he said.
Hawkins said he is most impressed there have been no scandals during the Obama administration.
“Meanwhile,” he said, “I can name 20 questionable conflicts of interest under Trump’s campaign.”
Photo By: Mark Stockwell/ The Sun Chronicle Staff: Photo of Liz Cohen, a mother and law student at Suffolk University in Boston
Liz Cohen, 34, is a wife, mother of two, and law student at Suffolk University in Boston.
All of that, and she still has time to keep up on politics.
Looking back on Obama’s presidency, she describes his legacy as “a class act.”
“The president, first lady and their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, all represented a loving and strong family unit,” Cohen said.
When Obama first ran for office in 2008, Cohen was living in Germany with her husband, who was deployed with the Army at the time.Her first glimpse of Obama was on a worn out TV, a moment she will never forget.
“He was very likable, a fresh new face, driven and ready to compete for the highest power in office,” she said.
Reflecting on the past eight years, Cohen has been most impressed by what she calls the dignity and poise Obama maintained while fighting for his agenda against a hostile Congress.
“No matter what Obama did, he always tried to connect to the lives of the people within this country,” she said. “It was his charisma that I loved and will never forget.”
Photo By: Jaclyn Kate Photography Photo of Kelsey Gallant, a Biology major at UMASS Amherst and a former grad of AHS
Kelsey Gallant of Attleboro was in eighth grade when Obama was elected president.
And although she doesn’t remember exactly how she felt about Obama at the time, she remembers thinking in class — after studying African-American history — how historical it was that an African American was elected the 44th president of the United States.
“After about 400 years of racial discrimination in America, it’s been pretty incredible to have President Obama represent our country,” she said.
Gallant, 21, applauds Obama for coming into office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression and presiding over the recovery, among other achievements.
But, a biology major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she says she’s particularly impressed with his climate action plan and push for clean energy.
Photo By: Paul Connors/ The Sun Chronicle Staff Photo of Angela Callahan, a mother of former AHS journalism student Jon Kermah and Human Resourses director at Raytheon.
Attleboro resident Angela Callahan is director of human resources at Waltham-based Raytheon, a major defense contractor.
Callahan, 46, said she’s been an Obama supporter from the beginning, and felt “calmness” and “comfort” when he took office.
His election, she said, was “one of the most significant accomplishment for blacks and other people of color in this country.”
“It means that being black in this country should not be a hindrance to success,” Callahan said. “Others cannot and should not put limitations on any individual, based on the color of their skin.”
“This is one of the most significant outcomes documented in this country of all the hard work — inclusive of death — of so many who fought for equal rights in this country,” she said.