Ex-president Barack Obama to speak in Calgary

Just over two years after he left office, former U.S. president Barack Obama will speak in Calgary.

The 44th U.S. president, whose policies have been targeted by his successor, Donald Trump, will appear March 5 at the Scotiabank Saddledome about a year after his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, drew a sold-out crowd at the Stampede Corral.

“Obama’s legacy is coloured by who his successor is and, to some degree, who his predecessor was,” said University of Calgary political scientist Terry Terriff.

The two-term Democratic president was the first African-American to occupy the White House, and took office in the midst of the economic meltdown of 2008-09.

He steered the country through that crisis to lead the longest stretch of job creation in America’s history, while overhauling the U.S. health-care system with the Affordable Care Act.

That latter achievement is Obama’s marquee domestic legacy, for now, said Terriff.

“How many times has the U.S. tried something like this, though it’s partly being undone by the current (Trump) administration,” said Terriff.

“The ACA had in it the best interests of Americans, in his view.”

But critics say Obama excessively deported undocumented immigrants and expanded the surveillance state, while his defenders insist Republican obstructionism in Congress eroded his legacy.

It was during his stint in the Oval Office that al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden was killed by a U.S. commando team in Pakistan in 2011.

America’s drone war intensified and the Pentagon stepped up its commitment to the conflict in Afghanistan under his presidency.

He led the effort to ink a multi-nation deal with Iran to prevent that country from developing nuclear weapons and developed closer relations with long-embargoed Cuba.

Like his domestic record, Obama’s foreign policy results were mixed, with his attempts to wind down the U.S. occupation of Iraq criticized, as was his reluctance to commit U.S. forces in Syria, said Terriff.

“He was hesitant due to the hangovers from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said.

Obama received one of his first tastes of public service by working with churches in Chicago to help communities hurt by the closure of steel plants.

He taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago before serving in the Illinois State Senate and the U.S. Senate.

When he was elected Nov. 4, 2008, Obama received more votes than any presidential candidate in history.

Last fall, Obama, 57, made his presence felt politically again, campaigning for Democratic Party candidates during the latter phase of the mid-term election, actions rare for an ex-president.

For his Calgary speech, he’ll probably follow the contours of his recent stops on the speaking circuit and steer largely clear of foreign policy, said Terriff.

“He’s very articulate and seen as a uniter, the healer-in-chief, which is very unlike the current president,” said Terriff.

“He’ll probably hold up Canada as an example.”

Tickets for A Conversation with President Barack Obama brought to Calgary by TINEPUBLIC go on sale Jan. 16 at 10 a.m. at Ticketmaster.


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