Looking Back: An American History Lesson from the year 2034

"Today's topic:  The Obama Years.  First off, let's generate some background information from you, the students.  What are some things that you've heard or that your parents might have experienced during Barack Obama's presidency?  Call them out and we'll make a list on the board."  

"He helped my Dad get home from Iraq!" 

"He helped my grandparents regain their lost savings!"  

"He helped my mom make more money from her job!"   

"He helped give rights to my Dads!"  

"He helped my parents save money with their health care!"  

"He helped get my aunt home from Afghanistan!"  

"He helped my uncle get a job making cars!" 

"He helped my cousins go to college!"

"Good, so the themes I have listed here on the board are jobs, rights, health care, money, and family.  Based on your own personal responses, how do you think the country as a whole felt about President Obama?  Call out some words that you think people used when they talked about our 44th President."

"Good!" 

"Nice!" 

"Kind!"

"Loyal!"

"Caring!" 

"Smart!"

"Honest!"

"Dedicated!"

"Hero!"  

"Great!  Let me stop you there.  Students, you've come up with a great list here.  However, let me add a few more words that people called President Obama when he was in office."

Tyrant. 

Dictator. 

Lazy. 

King.  

Socialist. 

Traitor. 

Un-American. 

Muslim. 

Illegitimate.  

Fake. 

Phony. 

Worst. 

Evil.  

"Now why do you think some people felt this way about our President, even though he helped so many of your families?" 

(blank faces) 

"Any guesses?  Yes Tony, was that a hand I saw?" 

"Well, maybe because they were jealous?"  

"Ok, good.  Expand upon that idea.  What were they jealous of?"  

"Maybe they saw that President Obama was helping a lot of people and they didn't like that."

"And why would helping people be a bad thing, Tony?"  

(no response)

"Who can help out Tony here?  He's on the right track.  Why would helping people be a bad thing?  Yes, Sally?"  

"Uh, because if one person helps and you don't help then you look bad?"  

"Precisely!  Great job, Sally.  You see students, at this time President Obama had a lot of ideas and policies that helped hard-working Americans.  Unfortunately, Conservatives in the country realized a lot of their own ideas wouldn't help hard-working Americans.  So, as we've talked about in history class before, what do groups do when their ideas don't work?" 

(in unison) "Blame the other guy!"  

"Exactly.  You see students, for everything that President Obama did that was good, his opponents made up some reason why it wasn't good enough.  When the economy recovered from The Great Recession, Conservatives claimed it wasn't fast enough.  When the wars ended in Iraq and Afghanistan, Conservatives claimed we should have stayed their longer.  When President Obama helped create Obamacare which led our country to the single payer system we have today, Conservatives claimed it would be too expensive.  When President Obama used executive orders to ensure LGBT equality and help raise the minimum wage, Conservatives claimed he was overstepping his authority.  They even tried to sue him!"  

(laughter) 

"Now students, knowing what you know about the now-extinct Republican Party, why do you think they refused to work with President Obama?  Yes, Juana?" 

"They were scared."  

"Interesting.  Juana, please continue."  

"Well, President Obama did a lot of good for the country and they never helped him.  My dads told me that not a single Republican voted for Obamacare.  They also wanted to help the rich back then even though the rich didn't create jobs.  They were against gay marriage and thought that gay people deserved less rights.  They also thought that immigrant families like mine were all illegals and should be deported, even if we've been here for many generations." 

"And why would that scare them, Juana?" 

"Because if President Obama was right and they were wrong then people wouldn't vote for them."  

"Excellent!  You see students, as we get into our unit on the Obama presidency, we will talk a lot about the people who wanted him to fail because there were millions of them.  President Obama represented something Conservatives in this country were scared of:  The American Dream.  He was a Black man, raised by a single White mother.  He worked hard in school and grad school.  He took out student loans.  He smoked marijuana but didn't become a drug addict.  He was a faithful husband and caring father to two beautiful daughters.  He was well-spoken and articulate and never lost his temper.  He believed in diplomacy rather than war.  President Obama was someone who started from nothing to become the most powerful man in the world.  He knew what kind of government policies helped get him there, but more importantly, he knew what kind of government policies had made it difficult for people like him." 

"It's like he succeeded in spite of Republicans." 

"Correct, Muhammad!  That is precisely correct.  Despite a generation of Conservative policies that hurt people like Barack Obama, he still managed to succeed in spite of them.  Once he became president, Conservatives were afraid that his story would prove their their policies actually hurt more people than helped.  And again class, what do groups in history do when it's proven their policies don't work?" 

(in unison)  "Lie!"  

"Excellent!  You are all catching on to these early 21st century patterns in American history." 

(bell rings)  

"Real quick!  Homework for tonight:  Print out one image of President Obama that portrays him in a negative light.  Write the source of the image beneath the picture.  Tomorrow in class, we'll discuss the media's portrayal of President Obama and how he was viewed across the political spectrum.  We'll also talk about the role of his allies including a couple folks with the last names Clinton and Warren." 

"You mean Presidents Clinton and Warren?" 

"Don't get ahead of yourself, Jimmy.  We'll talk about them next week."



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