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Lasting legacy

Last Updated : 22 January 2013, 20:44 IST
Last Updated : 22 January 2013, 20:44 IST

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Barack Obama has unveiled a progressive agenda for his second term as US president. He has promised measures on climate change, gay rights and immigration reform – all issues on which he can expect to come up against strong Republican opposition.

His speech at the inauguration dwelt at some length on the need for action on climate change, drawing on climate science to bolster his argument. Environment campaigners will be looking for specifics on how he will concretise the policy during his State of the Union address next month. Obama made history on Monday when he became the first US president to mention gays in his inaugural speech. Signalling the importance he is according gay rights, Obama put the fight for gay rights on par with earlier battles for gender justice and civil rights.

On the foreign policy front, the US president prioritised engagement rather than isolation and confrontation, an approach that will be welcomed across the world.

Obama begins his second term on a far stronger footing than at the start of his first term. Back in 2009, he began his presidency burdened by legacies of his predecessor: an economy in recession and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of this burden has lessened with the war in Iraq over and the American economy on the road to recovery. Obama can focus now on climate change, gun control reform, etc. Although he will have to deal with obstructionist Republicans, reaching out to them and including them in shaping policy and legislation is the way forward. On Israel-Palestine conflict he must act to nudge Israel towards a two-state solution.

Every US president since the Second World War has seen his second term tarnished by monumental blunders, botched responses to crises or scandals. Can Obama escape the ‘second term curse’? This is Obama’s legacy shaping second term. He could play safe and simply go down in history as America’s first Black president. That achievement he has bagged already. He must aim for more. He could become the president who made America and the world safer through gun reform at the domestic level and by signing on to a global treaty regulating arms trade. He could become the statesman who acted in time to prevent climate change disaster. He has four years to accomplish this and must start now.

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Published 22 January 2013, 17:37 IST

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