This is by no means an exhaustive list. And I’m not suggesting that there’s consensus about the positives and negatives of President Barack Obama’s various initiatives—although I’m guessing that folks on both sides of the aisle were tickled by his exchange in October with that overzealous boyfriend in the Chicago voting station—but here are a few notable moments from the president’s past year that pleased a lot of people.
1. The Reconciliation With Cuba
On Wednesday Obama announced restoration of “full diplomatic relations” with Cuba, a plan that includes opening a U.S. Embassy in Havana, easing restrictions on financial transactions such as remittances and banking, and encouraging Congress to start a legitimate conversation about lifting the embargo against Cuba, since that would require congressional action.
When asked to explain his decision, the president stressed that the status quo had not worked over the past 50 years, and it was that realization that inspired him to seek a change. That approach—when something isn’t working, try something else—made sense even to some of the president’s political adversaries.
2. Support for #BringBackOurGirls and Fighting the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa
Obama understood that a crisis for one country could reach the doorstep of the United States in no time. In May he sent about 80 military personnel to West Africa to help Nigerian officials in the search for the nearly 300 schoolgirls who were abducted by the Islamist group Boko Haram in northeastern Nigeria.
And in September the United States spent more than $100 million to help curb the spread of Ebola in three West African countries.
3. Addressing African Americans’ Distrust of Law Enforcement
When the nation learned that a Ferguson, Mo., grand jury would not indict Police Officer Darren Wilson for fatally shooting unarmed teenager Michael Brown, Obama spoke from the White House minutes later to reassure Americans who were angered by the outcome.
Not everyone agreed with Obama’s approach. There will always be a school of thought that he should be more demonstrative when expressing his frustration about the racial biases that exist in many U.S. institutions, including law enforcement. But as the Rev. Al Sharpton said a few months ago, President Bill Clinton didn’t say a word about the police killing of Amadou Diallo or the brutal sexual assault of Abner Louima by police, both of which happened on his watch.
That Obama spoke about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and also launched My Brother’s Keeper to support young black and Hispanic men, is considerably more than his predecessors have done. He has also tasked the Justice Department with investigating, with a view to remedying, the targeting of African-American and Latino communities by police departments.
4. A Historic Nomination
If confirmed by the Senate, Loretta Lynch will become the first African-American woman to serve as attorney general. The president nominated Lynch for the position in November.
5. Funny POTUS
Everyone loves a good laugh, right? And Obama scored major comedy points in October when he told passerby Mike Jones that he had not, in fact, been checking out Jones’ girlfriend, Aia Cooper, while voting at a Chicago precinct.
“Mr. President, please don’t touch my girlfriend,” Jones had jokingly told Obama, since the president was voting at a booth next to Cooper’s.
“I really wasn’t planning on it,” Obama deadpanned in reply.
It makes you wonder whether the president has a secret handle we don’t know about, since his response perfectly embodied the wit of black Twitter.
In November Obama announced a series of executive actions to grant or extend deportation relief for approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Observers say there was a clear commitment to keep families intact by granting relief to the undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and green card holders. Obama also maintained support and deportation relief for undocumented immigrants who have been living, working and attending school here since they were little.
The executive actions will also “allow high-skilled workers to move or change jobs more easily, and streamline visa and court procedures,” a New York Times report explains.
Here’s to hoping Obama is feeling just as ambitious in 2015.
Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.