Barack Obama: Reflections on a Great President

“Readers describe how they will remember the President as a man and as a leader…He emerged from relative obscurity as a beacon of hope and change. And, despite the roadblocks and setbacks, he remains so. The Obama presidency has been consequential. Especially impressive is his bold leadership on some of the most significant issues of our time, from health care reform to climate change to a nuclear deal with Iran that was once unimaginable. But it is Mr. Obama the man I will remember most.” The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

President Obama in March 2009 reading letters from Americans in his private study late at night. Credit Callie Shell:Aurora Photos

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day in 2009. Credit Doug Mills:The New York Times

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama walk along Pennsylvania Avenue during the parade following Obama’s second inauguration Jan. 21, 2013. Credit Joe Klamar-Getty Images.


Excerpt: Reflections on Obama New York Times Sunday Review

“The personal indignities to which he was subjected, from ‘birtherism’ to other acts of disrespect and contempt, are a disgrace. Yet he never lost his own dignity or grace.

Mr. Obama gave his Farewell Speech to the Nation from Chicago, January 10, 2017. Doug Mills:The New York Times

The crowd (20,000) stood as Mr. Obama delivered his farewell address. Doug Mills:The New York Times.

Now, with his successor inspiring more fear than hope, President Obama is urging us not to despair. Rather than apocalyptic, he’s still optimistic. Let’s follow his lead. Those of us who share his values should continue to work tirelessly toward the progressive ideals he has espoused. Barack Obama’s story will always represent the unique promise of America.”

P. Sato,Virginia Beach: “I will remember Barack Obama as president in a flurry of images and sounds —

President Obama Cries during Speech on Shooting At Sandy Hook Elementary School CT

body surfing in Hawaii, wiping a tear speaking of the Sandy Hook victims, singing “Amazing Grace,” announcing Osama bin Laden’s demise, dancing with Michelle on inauguration night, holding hands with his daughters, signing the health care act, showing off Muhammad Ali’s boxing gloves, shooting that three-point swish, doing really funny stand-up comedy, resuscitating our American automobile industry, placing medals of honor on soldiers, and always keeping it truly real.

May 1, 2011- President Obama Announces Bin Laden’s Death

Most of all I will remember his presidency as one of a dedicated family man exuding grace, intelligence, humor, wit, compassion, thoughtfulness and fierce commitment to ideals and principles. And, his smile.”

Christmas First Family- Obamas Hannukah

Obama and Biden-A Powerful Brotherhood

S. Skovgaard, Denver:  “I will remember President Obama for his dignity, his humor, his eloquence and especially as the president who shed tears without apology or embarrassment. In that speech in which he discussed  ‘common sense’ gun control measures, he recalled the victims of Sandy Hook and he cried. And I weep now as I write about this memory.”

First Lady Michelle and Barack Obama still in Love.

S. Scandrett, Oakland: “President Obama’s accomplishments in office are numerous, from saving the economy to passing comprehensive health care and financial reform. Yet when the history books describe his time in office, President Obama’s legacy will be defined most significantly by his record on climate change.”

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during COP21, United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Le Bourget, outside Paris, on Nov. 30, 2015.

C. Lanvin, Geneva: “While many journalists are pointing to President Obama’s decency and scandal-free administration as major takeaways, what I have been most impressed with is his international legacy. Having lived many years in Asia, where the United States is often seen as brash and arrogant, I have appreciated how he shows genuine respect for other cultures and religions.”

The World on his shoulders.

S. Birenbaum, Malibu: “I am despondent to see the end of Barack Obama’s presidency. Considering the absolute mess he inherited from the previous administration (endless war, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, America’s global reputation in shambles, etc.), I am sure future historians will rank his time in the Oval Office as the era in which the country took a huge step toward becoming the nation we aspire to be. He and his family restored class, dignity and thought into [the] White House…”

President Obama and Michelle with the girls outside of the White House.

T. Seigel, Weston, Conn:“Barack Obama is the first president to make openly gay and lesbian men and women and transgender individuals feel truly at home in our national government.

S. Crescenzo, Chicago:“Although President Obama’s major policy achievements — passage of the Affordable Care Act and the Iran nuclear deal — are now in danger under a Republican president and Congress, there can be no erasing the moral standards he established.”

Obamas Welcome Kids to White House for Easter Egg Roll

You sure are tall, Mr Obama! The president meets Halle Major during a visit by children from the Make-A-Wish charity at the Oval Office

D. Bernstein, Sacramento: A memorable part of President Obama’s legacy will be of a man who knew how to laugh at himself…He was serious about his responsibilities to all of us. He partnered with his wife, Michelle, to keep his daughters largely out of public scrutiny. He maintained his family’s values, like the dinner hour spent together. In so many ways, he was easy to relate to, even though none of us had lived a life that was in any way comparable to his. I will miss him!”

Festive- The First Family pictured outside Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, after Sunday’s Easter service

The President and First Lady

A young Obama with his grandparents Stanley and Madelyn Dunham while he [attended] Columbia University. Photo- The dailymail

All flavors of people adore Obama.

S.  L. Sparks Ga.:“I will remember Barack Obama as the most admirable man to hold the office of the presidency in my lifetime (70 years). My admiration has nothing to do with his policy successes or failures. No, my admiration is based on his deportment as a human being. He is an exemplary husband and father; he treats others with respect; he pursues the greater good over personal gain; his actions are guided by strong ethical and moral convictions; In short, he is the human being I have always endeavored to become.”

The President walking away-Rose-Garden. Huffington Post

“America is not the project of any one person. Because the single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We The People.’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ ‘Yes, We Can.”


President Obama’s Farewell Speech to the Nation, January 10, 2017.

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. He was subjected to personal indignities.
  2. President Obama is urging us not to despair.
  3. Obama’s story will always represent the unique promise of America.
  4. President Obama is known for his dignity.
  5. President Obama’s accomplishments in office are numerous.
  6. He took office at a true crossroads for our planet.
  7. President Obama’s decency is known world-wide.
  8. He has been restrained in the use of military force.
  9. His legacy to me is his tireless warmth.
  10. My heart is truly heavy as President Obama leaves office.

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following paragraph taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Watching ___at the Kennedy Center Honors show on ___every December has reliably put a lump in my throat. The way he grinned, and___, and ___in time with the___eyes ___ and ___the words — unquestionably___. But the lump came from seeing his ___in the ___range of talent being celebrated, the ___of Americans’ creativity on___display.

WORD LIST: extraordinary, cool, diversity, grooved, President Obama, glorious, palpable pleasure, television,  shook his head, music, mouthed,  closed,

 Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.


  1. President Obama domestic legacy is one of thoughtful policy.
  2. President Obama’s accomplishments in office are numerous.
  3. Mr. Obama met the moment boldly.


  1. President Obama showed  their humanity.
  2. Many journalists are pointing to President Obama’s decency.
  3. President Obama  was a dedicated family man exuding grace and intelligence.


  1. Pride organizations can be found at the Justice Department.
  2. It is because of him that I finally  find my place in America.
  3. He rescued the economy and led international efforts to slow climate change.

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Questions for Comprehension /Writing

Directions: Place students in groups and have them  discuss the following statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following  topics.

  1. “Mr. Obama never lost faith in his countrymen and always acted on behalf of the many rather than the few. He rescued the economy, led international efforts to slow climate change, and struck at terrorists from the skies to minimize American casualties. He took important steps to protect the environment. Sadly, he was unable to pass immigration reform or gun-control measures, but not for lack of trying.”
  2. “I was 8 years old when President Obama took office in 2009. I watched the inauguration all the adults in my life were calling ‘historic.’ President Obama would be the one to make our government feel human to me… Here was a president who delivered arguably the funniest White House Correspondents Dinner speech ever, here was a dad who made jokes that made me groan out of sympathy for Malia and Sasha.”

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.