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A COLUMN DIVIDED: How will Obama’s second term play out?

From the Left

Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Updated: Tuesday, January 29, 2013 15:01


Martin Luther King Jr. once said that a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus, but a molder of consensus. As we celebrated the holiday honoring that great man, we also witnessed President Obama rise to that challenge of leadership at the outset of his second term. His inaugural address, sobering yet hopeful, mindful but determined, laid the foundation for his next four years in office. 

Obama’s first term was marked with countless successes and struggles, but he was still gaining experience as a leader. With each crisis weathered, from economic recovery to health care reform, to ending the wars, he learned. But something changed for the President after his victory in the 2012 election; he came of age. 

Since November, we have seen the President, not as a passive viewer or even his favored position as a mediator, but an active and determined leader. He has been very clear about his policy goals. He plans to continue his push for immigration reform to ensure that there is a road to citizenship for those who want to come to the U.S. and equal rights for all of our citizens, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. He looks to improve our environment and address global climate change rather than ignore the problems that threaten not just our nation, but the world. He will continue pressing on guns to reduce the violence and extremism that fuel the debate. Success in the fiscal cliff negotiations show that his economic plan is moving forward, emphasizing deficit reduction, economic growth, and shared responsibility and benefit for all. For the first time in recent history, each of these proposals has received the support of a strong majority of Americans. 

Beyond policy, we can also look to Obama’s second term nominations for insight. It will be impossible to fill the shoes of Hillary Clinton as she leaves the State Department, however the choice of John Kerry demonstrates a pragmatic approach to foreign policy. Continuing his impressive track record of bipartisan appointments, the nomination of Republican Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense can be read as a commitment to ending the war while remaining strong on national security. Hagel’s confirmation will be difficult, but shows that Obama has no intention of shying away from difficult circumstances. Nearly five years after the economic collapse, the nominations of budget-savvy Jack Lew to the Treasury and Mary Jo White who prosecuted Mafia bosses to the Securities and Exchange Commission signal a focus on economic growth and toughness on the recklessness of Wall Street. 

Like many before him, Obama is looking to his second term to shape his legacy. His inaugural address drew many lessons from history with the spirit of moving forward while remembering the past. Though he recognizes the challenges of divided government, he has adopted new determination to lead the nation toward genuine progress. To echo the President, “We are made for this moment, and we will seize it — so long as we seize it together.”



– Mike McPhie is a senior from Toole, Utah, majoring in law and constitutional studies. During the spring semester, he interned in Washington, D.C. Send him comments at

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