Discussions of Obama's legacy are often too narrow. They focus on specific policies that were adopted or not adopted. They don't pay enough attention to what Obama himself said at his January 10 valedictory speech in Chicago. When the audience began shouting "No, no, no, no, no" as he mentioned the coming change in the White House, Obama responded with a statement that displays his wisdom and his understanding of the important role of the United States in world history, namely that one of our nation's great strengths "is the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next."
We have constructed a large and prosperous democratic nation that decides who should have ultimate political power in our country for the next few years on the basis of elections rather than fighting violent military battles. In a democracy groups with opposing views and interests realize that the results of an election can be reversed in the next election and the next and the next. Violence is not necessary.
In a stable democracy there is no one winner-take-all for the foreseeable future. The rulers for the moment can be changed in the next election. Progress toward an ideal community can be made gradually and even with steps forward and back.
We had our very destructive Civil War (1861-1865) to determine that we would preserve the democratic federal Union. For a century and a half after that our country has experienced the wonderful benefits of a united democratic federal government that determines its rulers by elections instead of wars and is governed by law and courts rather than destructive military battles. Obama realizes that, and his whole life as well as his presidency has been guided by it.
This legacy is even broader than just for this county or even for many other federal democratic countries following in our nation's footsteps. It provides a lesson for the whole world community that the way to end war not only within countries but also within the planetary community is to establish a democratic federal government.
What a huge blessing it would be for all of humanity if the global community would transform the United Nations into a global democratic government just as our country made the transformation from the ineffective Articles of Confederation to the democratic federal union when the U.S. Constitution was created and ratified in 1787-1789 and George Washington became our first elected President.