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Obama’s First Year

La Opinión, Editorial, Staff Posted: Dec 31, 2009

The year 2009 opened in the United States with conflicting emotions: The high expectations and hopes following the election of President Barack Obama in the midst of one of the worst economic crises since the 1930s. The reality of this situation could not be ignored. The new president took a pragmatic approach to address complex problems and, in many cases, disappointed his voters.

The traditional honeymoon usually enjoyed by newly elected presidents to promote their agenda vanished in the face of the urgency to shore up the financial sector on Wall Street and the industrial sector in Detroit. At the same time, the Republican opposition in Congress did not give Obama a moment’s rest, seizing every opportunity to thwart his projects and criticize the White House for wanting to do too much.

Promises of change carried Obama to the White House but many of them have not been fulfilled. There will be more soldiers in Afghanistan, for example, instead of a troop withdrawal and immigration reform has been put on the back burner.

The economic stimulus and recovery has further helped to consolidate power on Wall Street, which is quickly returning to the bad habits of the past. Meanwhile, a significant number of Americans continue to lose their jobs and homes.

Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s appointment as a Supreme Court Justice was without a doubt the best news for Latinos, yet Hispanics continued suffering economic hardships and experiencing the new administration's renewed pressure on undocumented immigrants.

Nevertheless, we believe the year ended in positive territory. We disagree with the optimists who awarded Obama the Nobel Peace Prize for simply not being his predecessor, but the changes made by the White House are undeniable and for the better. The reform of the healthcare system to increase coverage for millions is closer than ever, and Congress has passed major bills including financial reform.

Beyond specific measures, this year Obama set the tone for a shift in national priorities. A new discourse to enhance the status of minorities and those displaced by past economic policies has again become an integral part of the national debate.

This has been a very difficult time in which high hopes have confronted profound anxieties. Nevertheless, at the end of the year, the winds of change have prevailed.

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