Obama’s Firsts

In the January/February edition of the Washington Monthly, we’ve listed Obama’s Top 50 Accomplishments. Those certainly constitute the most significant part of his legacy. But I thought it would also be interesting to take a look at some of the “firsts” of his presidency.

By far the most significant is, of course, that he is the first African American president in this country’s history. More than anything else, this iconic photo captures the meaning of that.

But there have been other firsts. Like the fact that Obama is the first sitting president to visit Hiroshima.

Laos

The Arctic

A Federal Prison

It’s probably not fair to note that Obama is the first sitting president to have a Twitter account or host chats on YouTube and Reddit, or the first to be interviewed on a podcast, or sit between two ferns, because he has the unfair advantage of being the first president of the social media era.

But professorial Obama has been particularly active lately. He is the first sitting president to publish an academic paper (United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps, Journal of the American Medical Association), the first to publish a work of legal scholarship (The President’s Role in Advancing Criminal Justice Reform, Harvard Law Review) and the first to edit a magazine (the “Frontiers” issue of WIRED).

Historians will have to correct me if I’m wrong, but I also think that Obama is the first sitting president to inspire the nation by singing at a memorial service.

Are there any other firsts that you find particularly memorable?

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.