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American Leadership

The Obama Administration


When President Obama took office in 2009, America was engaged in two costly wars, faced a global economic crisis, and had a diminished standing with our allies and around the world. The President refocused and reaffirmed American leadership in the world, recognizing that American strength derives not only from our military power but also our economic vitality, the depth and breadth of our global partnerships, and our values.

Over the course of his time in office, President Obama chose to pursue engagement over the use of force — making it a hallmark of the Administration’s promotion of America’s national security interests and the safety of the American people. Through strong and smart, resilient and relentless policies, the President leveraged every aspect of American power to ensure our homeland would remain safe and the global leader of the 21st century.

Dismantled Al Qaeda’s Leadership

May 2, 2011

On May 2, 2011, at President Obama’s direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties. After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

President Barack Obama wearing a navy blue jacket and a white polo shirt sits in a room with other individuals of a light skin tone. There is a brown table in front of them with four laptops and papers on it.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, May 1, 2011. Seated, from left, are: Brigadier General Marshall B. “Brad” Webb, Assistant Commanding General, Joint Special Operations Command; Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Please note: a classified document seen in this photograph has been obscured. (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

Improved America’s Cybersecurity

February 12, 2013

On February 12, 2013, President Obama signed Executive Order 13636, “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.” The Executive Order was designed to increase the level of core capabilities for our critical infrastructure to manage cyber risk. It did this by focusing on three key areas: (1) information sharing, (2) privacy, and (3) the adoption of cybersecurity practices.

The EO tasked the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) to work with the private sector to identify existing voluntary consensus standards and industry best practices and build them into a Cybersecurity Framework. The Administration recognized that there were private-sector cyber leaders who were already implementing strong cybersecurity controls, policies, procedures and innovations and asked these companies to help us shape best practices across critical infrastructure.

President Obama sits at a table with people of various skin tones. The background features a backdrop that reads ¨summit on cybersecurity and consumer protection¨

President Barack Obama participates in a Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection with business leaders at Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., Feb. 13, 2015. (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

Led a Global Effort Against Nuclear Proliferation

The Obama Administration secured a landmark multilateral deal to roll back the Iranian nuclear program and verify that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon. Nuclear physicists, military officials, non-proliferation experts, and more than 100 countries across the globe all voiced their support for the Iran nuclear deal because it was the best solution available to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon without taking military action.

The Administration also led global efforts to secure nuclear materials to prevent them from falling into the hands of terrorists through four Nuclear Security Summits.

President Obama speaks to a crowd of people.
President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani

President Barack Obama delivers his first major speech stating a commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons in front of thousands in Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009. (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)


President Barack Obama talks with President Hassan Rouhani of Iran during a phone call in the Oval Office, Sept. 27, 2013.

(Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

Normalized Relations with Cuba

December 17, 2014

On December 17, 2014, President Obama announced that he was rejecting the Cold War-era policy era of the past. He built a historic opening to Cuba, ending a failed policy of over 50 years by re-establishing diplomatic relations and facilitating greater travel, commerce, and people-to-people ties.

President Obama is wearing sunglasses and a white collared shirt raising his arm toward the camera. The background includes the first family and a large crowd behind them.
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“During an exhibition baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban National Team in Havana, Cuba, President Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba spontaneously joined in ‘the wave’ that others in the crowd had started.” (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

Negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership

October 5, 2015

The Obama Administration negotiated and concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-country agreement representing nearly 40 percent of global economic output, to increase American trade with the fastest growing region in the world, based on an open, transparent, and level playing field.

President Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting

President Barack Obama attends the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting at the ASEAN Summit at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Nov. 20, 2012. Taking part in the meeting, clockwise from the President, are; Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah; Prime Minister Mohammed Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia; Prime Minister John Key of New Zealand; Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore; Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Vietnam; and Prime Minister Julia Gillard of Australia. (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

Led the Paris Agreement

December 12, 2015

The Obama Administration led a global effort to achieve the Paris Agreement among 196 countries to take real action on climate change that calls for strong transparency, ensuring countries adhere to ambitious emissions reduction goals, and setting the world on a course to cut carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases.

President Barack Obama briefs European leaders

President Barack Obama briefs European leaders, including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Danish Prime Minister Lars L. Rasmussen, following a multilateral meeting at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, Dec. 18, 2009. (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

Responded to Ebola

The Obama Administration developed a comprehensive, intergovernmental strategy to combat outbreaks of the flu (H1N1), Ebola, and other infectious diseases.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa grew into the deadliest one the world has ever seen — and the President committed to treating and tackling Ebola as both a national security priority, and an example of American leadership.

The U.S. built, coordinated, and led a worldwide response to the Ebola outbreak while strengthening our preparedness here at home. And thanks to the hard work of our military members, civilian responders, and health care workers, we dramatically bent the curve of the epidemic. Cases went down 80 percent from peak levels.

President Obama sits across five individuals with different skin tones at a long brown table with two pink flower bouquets in the center of the table. There is a white wall in the background with two portrait paintings and three lamps.
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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hold a multilateral meeting with West African leaders regarding Ebola, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, April 15, 2015. Seated across from the President, from left, are President Alpha Conde of Guinea; Amara Konneh, Minister of Finance, Liberia; President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia; Julia Duncan Cassell, Minister of Gender and Development, Liberia and President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone. (Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

Formed a Coalition to Degrade and Destroy ISIL

The terrorist group known as ISIL was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq. Though it calls itself the “Islamic State,” it is neither Islamic nor a state. It is a terrorist organization that has perverted a religion into a dangerous ideology.

On September 10, 2014, President Obama announced the formation of a broad international coalition to defeat ISIL. Since then, the United States has led 66 international partners in a global coalition to counter ISIL with a focus on liberating ISIL-controlled territory in Iraq and Syria. The mission was aimed at striking ISIL at its core, degrading its networks, and constraining its prospects for expansion.

President Obama wearing a black suit with a white button-up shirt sits at a long blue table amongst a group of individuals with different skin tones in a room with white walls that have four flags in front of it.
A few pairs of hands with a light-medium skin tone are writing in notepads. They are dressed in uniform wearing black uniforms.
President Barack Obama, wearing a dark blue suit and tie, sits next to a man with a deep skin tone wearing a black uniform jacket with medals and patches. There are four people of a light skin tone in the background wearing black uniform jackets as well. Everyone is sitting in front of a royal blue curtain with the United States Central Command symbol hanging in front of it, as well as two flags.

President Barack Obama convenes a meeting with Arab coalition leaders in the fight against the terrorist group ISIL in Iraq and Syria, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, N.Y., Sept. 23, 2014.


Attendees take notes during President Barack Obama's briefing on the campaign against the terrorist group ISIL in Iraq and Syria, held at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Sept. 17, 2014.


President Barack Obama participates in a briefing on the campaign against the terrorist group ISIL in Iraq and Syria, held at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., Sept. 17, 2014. The President is seated next to Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, Commander, U.S. Central Command.

(Courtesy Barack Obama Presidential Library)

President Obama, eyes squinted and large smile, looks at a child through a big black magnifying glass. They appear to be in a classroom with other children nearby.

Learn more about the Obama Administration

Browse the story of President Obama’s administration and the Obama family’s time in the White House.