By Eric Pfeiffer, GOOD.is
On January 20, 2017 President Obama will leave the White House for the last time as America’s commander-in-chief. After swearing in President-elect Donald Trump at a ceremony on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, he will officially be out of office, the final step in winding down the last days of his eight years in office.
But we’re not there just yet!
Before he punches out that final presidential time card, Obama is moving quickly behind the scenes to protect his legacy before the Republican triumvirate (White House, Congress, Supreme Court) begins to formally chip away at his legislative and symbolic accomplishments. Here are six things he should be checking off his list as he prepares to transition back to private life while ensuring the last eight years of progress don’t disappear along with him.
PROTECTING HIS ENVIRONMENTAL LEGACY:
With a groundbreaking legacy already intact, Obama took another leap forward by using an obscure 1953 law to permanently remove parts of the Arctic and Atlantic from offshore oil drilling. It’s a direct counter to the goals of several incoming Trump Administration officials, whose formal business dealings with Russia suggest more, not less, drilling projects in our near future. "If the reports are right, then this is a gift to the public and to our kids that will rank with any in the history of American conservation," Niel Lawrence, Alaska director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.
Still looming larger on the horizon are Obama’s continued efforts to persuade Trump that honoring the Paris Agreement is in the best interests of the U.S. and our relationships with other nations that have signed on, including China.
Setting aside land for conservation, usually in the form of national parks, is a long and storied tradition first made fashionable by Theodore Roosevelt. So, don’t be surprised if Obama uses his executive pen to protect more federal lands in the coming weeks.
TAKE ONE LAST JOYRIDE ON AIR FORCE ONE:
Traditionally, modern ex-presidents formally leave Washington, DC with one last flight aboard Air Force One, which takes the president and their family back to their home state. However, the Obamas plan to stay in DC for the next few years until Sasha Obama finishes high school. They’ve already picked out a beautiful new home in the city’s upscale Northwest neighborhood of Kalorama. However, the house is reportedly undergoing extensive renovations before their arrival, meaning one of the first major post-presidential projects is likely to involve unpacking boxes. So, since he’ll miss out on the presidential drop-off, we’d recommend taking Air Force One for one last spin.
MEET WITH IVANKA ON SOCIAL ISSUES:
With fears over the future of marriage equality, reproductive rights and equal pay, Obama is reportedly making a strong push to persuade Trump on these issues to varying degrees of success. On marriage equality, Trump has already publicly said he’s “fine” with the Supreme Court’s decision and considers the debate settled. But his record on abortion has flip-flopped in recent years, going from “very pro-choice” to saying that women should be “punished” if they exercise their right to choose. That’s where his daughter Ivanka can play a critical role in both informing and moderating her father’s stance on social issues. Ivanka herself has recently said the two issues she plans to lobby her father on the hardest are equal pay for women and paid paternity leave. While it’s certainly respectable that Obama is doing his best to directly lobby President-elect Trump, he might get even further tackling some of the same issues over coffee with Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner.
GET TO KNOW HIS NEW OFFICE MATES:
Obama will likely spend a fair amount of time in Chicago and traveling the globe to work on various issues. However, he’s also formally leased space inside the World Wildlife Fund’s main offices in Washington, DC where he will periodically work while in town. You can bet employees at the WWF are going to be more than a little excited to have a popular ex-president like Obama coming in to work. So, Obama better get ready to field requests for lunch dates, carpooling and the inevitable soul-crushing company holiday party. Then again, he may just settle for more humble options, as it has been reported that part of the renovations to the new Obama family home include adorably turning one of the garages into a small office space for the ex-president, further cementing the notion that Obama really is our nation’s Dad.
BREAK OUT THE PARDON PEN ONE LAST TIME:
President Obama has already granted clemency to more than 1,300 individuals, including over 100 pardons. That’s more than the last 11 presidents combined, including a single-day record of 153 commutations and 78 pardons on December 19, 2016. Still, that’s far short of the lofty goal set by some in his administration who estimated as many as 10,000 people should be up clemency. With Trump making very public gestures of siding with police in the ongoing national criminal justice debate, Obama will likely use the next several weeks to aggressively work to free those most maligned by our federal criminal justice system, a topic that has generated a surprising level of bipartisan support in recent years.
MAKE IT ABOUT MICHELLE:
When Obama first ran for the U.S. Senate in 2004, he promised his wife that if he lost, he’d give up on his pursuit of elective office. Well, we all know how that worked out. Now, 12 years later, it’s Michelle’s turn. It’s not like she’s been sitting on the sidelines of course, becoming a historic First Lady and generating enormous interests from the public in pursuing her own run for office, either to the Senate, or yes, the White House. However, the soon-to-be-former FLOTUS has said she has zero interest in campaigning, instead wanting to focus on family and her own chosen set of issues. While we’re sure Barack has plenty of plans of his own, we’d love a peek at her checklist for 2017.