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Pictures | Wed Jan 18, 2017 | 9:30pm GMT

Obama's major moments

PLEA FOR GUN CONTROL: In January 2016, Obama shed tears while speaking about the young victims of Sandy Hook, the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," he said. "That changed me, that day ... My hope earnestly has been that it would change the country."

In a powerful address in the White House, surrounded by family members of people killed in shootings, Obama's voice rose to a yell as he said the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms needed to be balanced by the right to worship, gather peacefully and live their lives.

At that announcement, Obama ordered stricter gun rules that he can impose without Congress and urged American voters to reject pro-gun candidates, and laid out executive action that requires more gun sellers to get licenses and more gun buyers to undergo background checks.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

PLEA FOR GUN CONTROL: In January 2016, Obama shed tears while speaking about the young victims of Sandy Hook, the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. "Every time I think about those...more

PLEA FOR GUN CONTROL: In January 2016, Obama shed tears while speaking about the young victims of Sandy Hook, the December 2012 massacre of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. "Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad," he said. "That changed me, that day ... My hope earnestly has been that it would change the country." In a powerful address in the White House, surrounded by family members of people killed in shootings, Obama's voice rose to a yell as he said the constitutional rights of Americans to bear arms needed to be balanced by the right to worship, gather peacefully and live their lives. At that announcement, Obama ordered stricter gun rules that he can impose without Congress and urged American voters to reject pro-gun candidates, and laid out executive action that requires more gun sellers to get licenses and more gun buyers to undergo background checks. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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SHOOTING DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said in his first comments about the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids."

Martin, dressed in a hoodie, was shot dead in 2012 in Sanford, Florida by a 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer who said he was acting in self-defense. After Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in 2016, Obama said that Martin "could have been me, 35 years ago" and urged Americans to understand the pain blacks felt over the case. He also questioned "stand your ground" self-defense laws that have been adopted in 30 states.

REUTERS/Brian Blanco

SHOOTING DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said in his first comments about the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy,...more

SHOOTING DEATH OF TRAYVON MARTIN: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon," Obama said in his first comments about the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. "I can only imagine what these parents are going through. And when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids." Martin, dressed in a hoodie, was shot dead in 2012 in Sanford, Florida by a 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a white Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer who said he was acting in self-defense. After Zimmerman was found not guilty of murder in 2016, Obama said that Martin "could have been me, 35 years ago" and urged Americans to understand the pain blacks felt over the case. He also questioned "stand your ground" self-defense laws that have been adopted in 30 states. REUTERS/Brian Blanco
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AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: The law, which expanded health coverage to some 20 million people, has been plagued by increases in insurance premiums and deductibles and by some large insurers leaving the system. House Republicans, under pressure from President-elect Donald Trump to act quickly, started the process of dismantling the ACA despite concerns about not having a ready replacement and the potential financial cost of repealing the law.

REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: The law, which expanded health coverage to some 20 million people, has been plagued by increases in insurance premiums and deductibles and by some large insurers leaving the system. House Republicans, under pressure from...more

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: The law, which expanded health coverage to some 20 million people, has been plagued by increases in insurance premiums and deductibles and by some large insurers leaving the system. House Republicans, under pressure from President-elect Donald Trump to act quickly, started the process of dismantling the ACA despite concerns about not having a ready replacement and the potential financial cost of repealing the law. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
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REVIVING THE AUTO INDUSTRY: Obama's rescue of the American auto industry was a cornerstone of his major economic stimulus plan after taking office in 2009. The government gave General Motors and Chrysler more than $62 billion in direct bailout and bankruptcy assistance, and pushed them to transform their operations to make more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, building on previous bailouts by the Bush administration.

But several years on, car companies are still churning out gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles to meet consumer demand, going against Obama's hope that higher fuel-economy models would win the day. Sales of SUVs rose 16 percent in 2015, while car sales fell 2 percent. Although new SUVs are more efficient than prior models, they still burn more gasoline than cars. About 59 percent of U.S. vehicle sales in 2015 were sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks or other big vehicles, up from 54 percent in 2014. Low gas prices boosted the trend.

The bailout of GM and Chrysler saved 1.5 million jobs in the United States, according to the Center for Automotive Research. While Treasury's final loss on the bailout was estimated at $13.7 billion including $11.8 billion related to its investment in GM, it avoided the loss of $105.3 billion in unemployment benefit payments and the loss of personal and social insurance tax collections, according to CAR.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

REVIVING THE AUTO INDUSTRY: Obama's rescue of the American auto industry was a cornerstone of his major economic stimulus plan after taking office in 2009. The government gave General Motors and Chrysler more than $62 billion in direct bailout and...more

REVIVING THE AUTO INDUSTRY: Obama's rescue of the American auto industry was a cornerstone of his major economic stimulus plan after taking office in 2009. The government gave General Motors and Chrysler more than $62 billion in direct bailout and bankruptcy assistance, and pushed them to transform their operations to make more fuel-efficient cars and trucks, building on previous bailouts by the Bush administration. But several years on, car companies are still churning out gas-guzzling sport utility vehicles to meet consumer demand, going against Obama's hope that higher fuel-economy models would win the day. Sales of SUVs rose 16 percent in 2015, while car sales fell 2 percent. Although new SUVs are more efficient than prior models, they still burn more gasoline than cars. About 59 percent of U.S. vehicle sales in 2015 were sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks or other big vehicles, up from 54 percent in 2014. Low gas prices boosted the trend. The bailout of GM and Chrysler saved 1.5 million jobs in the United States, according to the Center for Automotive Research. While Treasury's final loss on the bailout was estimated at $13.7 billion including $11.8 billion related to its investment in GM, it avoided the loss of $105.3 billion in unemployment benefit payments and the loss of personal and social insurance tax collections, according to CAR. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE: The Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement.

Obama, the first sitting president to support gay marriage, hailed the ruling "a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free."

As night fell, the White House was lit in rainbow colors - a symbol of gay pride - to mark the high court's decision.

REUTERS/Gary Cameron

LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE: The Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement. Obama, the first sitting president to support...more

LEGALIZATION OF GAY MARRIAGE: The Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that the U.S. Constitution provides same-sex couples the right to marry, handing a historic triumph to the American gay rights movement. Obama, the first sitting president to support gay marriage, hailed the ruling "a victory for America. This decision affirms what millions of Americans already believe in their hearts. When all Americans are treated as equal, we are all more free." As night fell, the White House was lit in rainbow colors - a symbol of gay pride - to mark the high court's decision. REUTERS/Gary Cameron
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THE KILLING OF OSAMA BIN LADEN: After a nearly 10-year worldwide hunt for the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Obama announced in May 2011 that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan. Bin Laden's death was highly symbolic but it was unclear whether it would mark a turning point in the worldwide war against a highly fractured network of militants. The operation also complicated relations with Pakistan, already frayed over U.S. drone strikes, Pakistan's refusal to stop supporting the Taliban, and sharp U.S. cuts to military and economic aid to Pakistan in recent years.

REUTERS/White House/Pete Souza/Handout

THE KILLING OF OSAMA BIN LADEN: After a nearly 10-year worldwide hunt for the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Obama announced in May 2011 that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan. Bin Laden's...more

THE KILLING OF OSAMA BIN LADEN: After a nearly 10-year worldwide hunt for the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, Obama announced in May 2011 that al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a firefight with U.S. forces in Pakistan. Bin Laden's death was highly symbolic but it was unclear whether it would mark a turning point in the worldwide war against a highly fractured network of militants. The operation also complicated relations with Pakistan, already frayed over U.S. drone strikes, Pakistan's refusal to stop supporting the Taliban, and sharp U.S. cuts to military and economic aid to Pakistan in recent years. REUTERS/White House/Pete Souza/Handout
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POST-BIN LADEN BACKLASH AGAINST PAKISTAN'S POLIO AID WORKERS: Pakistan is one of just two countries in the world, along with Afghanistan, that have endemic polio, a once-common childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death. Taliban militants have long been the scourge of Pakistan's polio vaccination campaign, attacking aid workers and the police who protect them as they distribute doses to children. Militants in Pakistan have previously alleged the immunization campaigns are a cover for Western spies. Shakil Afridi, the doctor believed to have helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, was accused of using a fake vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples and is currently in jail on murder charges related to the death of a patient. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump was criticized by Pakistan after he said he would force the country to free the doctor.

REUTERS/Athar Hussain

POST-BIN LADEN BACKLASH AGAINST PAKISTAN'S POLIO AID WORKERS: Pakistan is one of just two countries in the world, along with Afghanistan, that have endemic polio, a once-common childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death. Taliban militants have...more

POST-BIN LADEN BACKLASH AGAINST PAKISTAN'S POLIO AID WORKERS: Pakistan is one of just two countries in the world, along with Afghanistan, that have endemic polio, a once-common childhood virus that can cause paralysis or death. Taliban militants have long been the scourge of Pakistan's polio vaccination campaign, attacking aid workers and the police who protect them as they distribute doses to children. Militants in Pakistan have previously alleged the immunization campaigns are a cover for Western spies. Shakil Afridi, the doctor believed to have helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden, was accused of using a fake vaccination campaign to collect DNA samples and is currently in jail on murder charges related to the death of a patient. During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump was criticized by Pakistan after he said he would force the country to free the doctor. REUTERS/Athar Hussain
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IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: After the U.S. signed a nuclear with Iran and five other countries in July 2015, Obama's administration touted the deal as a legacy foreign policy achievement, a way to suspend Tehran's suspected drive to develop atomic weapons. The six agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program, which Tehran said was for peaceful energy purposes only. Thanks in part to the nuclear agreement, Iran has begun to rejoin global politics and economics after more than three decades of isolation. Business and political leaders are visiting the country, which is also hosting trade conferences.

The deal, harshly opposed by Republicans in Congress, was reached as a political commitment rather than a treaty ratified by lawmakers, making it vulnerable to a new U.S. president. Trump ran for the White House opposing the deal but contradictory statements made it unclear how he would act. Trump said the deal lead to a "nuclear holocaust" and that he would have negotiated a better deal, with longer restrictions, but somewhat paradoxically, he criticized remaining U.S. sanctions that prevent American companies from dealing with Iran. By contrast, he has conceded it would be hard to destroy a deal enshrined in a United Nations resolution.

Helga Schmid, Secretary General of the European Union's foreign policy service, said the deal was not up for renegotiation. "It's a multilateral agreement that cannot be renegotiated bilaterally," she said, pointing out that the deal had also been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: After the U.S. signed a nuclear with Iran and five other countries in July 2015, Obama's administration touted the deal as a legacy foreign policy achievement, a way to suspend Tehran's suspected drive to develop atomic weapons....more

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: After the U.S. signed a nuclear with Iran and five other countries in July 2015, Obama's administration touted the deal as a legacy foreign policy achievement, a way to suspend Tehran's suspected drive to develop atomic weapons. The six agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran in return for curbs on its nuclear program, which Tehran said was for peaceful energy purposes only. Thanks in part to the nuclear agreement, Iran has begun to rejoin global politics and economics after more than three decades of isolation. Business and political leaders are visiting the country, which is also hosting trade conferences. The deal, harshly opposed by Republicans in Congress, was reached as a political commitment rather than a treaty ratified by lawmakers, making it vulnerable to a new U.S. president. Trump ran for the White House opposing the deal but contradictory statements made it unclear how he would act. Trump said the deal lead to a "nuclear holocaust" and that he would have negotiated a better deal, with longer restrictions, but somewhat paradoxically, he criticized remaining U.S. sanctions that prevent American companies from dealing with Iran. By contrast, he has conceded it would be hard to destroy a deal enshrined in a United Nations resolution. Helga Schmid, Secretary General of the European Union's foreign policy service, said the deal was not up for renegotiation. "It's a multilateral agreement that cannot be renegotiated bilaterally," she said, pointing out that the deal had also been endorsed by the U.N. Security Council. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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THAWING RELATIONS WITH CUBA: Breaking with longstanding U.S. policy, Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015. Obama traveled to Havana in March 2016, the first visit by a U.S. president in 88 years. The trip was made possible by his breakthrough agreement with Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014 to cast aside decades of hostility that began soon after Cuba's 1959 revolution.

Since the opening, Obama has repeatedly used his executive powers to relax trade and travel restrictions, while pushing Cuba to accelerate cautious market-style reforms and allow greater political and economic freedom.

Even so, the U.S. embargo against Cuba remains in place, a major irritant in relations. Only Congress can lift the embargo, and the Republican leadership is not expected to allow such a move anytime soon.

REUTERS/Alberto Reyes

THAWING RELATIONS WITH CUBA: Breaking with longstanding U.S. policy, Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015. Obama traveled to Havana in March 2016, the first visit by a U.S. president in 88 years. The trip was made possible by his...more

THAWING RELATIONS WITH CUBA: Breaking with longstanding U.S. policy, Obama restored diplomatic ties with Cuba in 2015. Obama traveled to Havana in March 2016, the first visit by a U.S. president in 88 years. The trip was made possible by his breakthrough agreement with Cuban President Raul Castro in December 2014 to cast aside decades of hostility that began soon after Cuba's 1959 revolution. Since the opening, Obama has repeatedly used his executive powers to relax trade and travel restrictions, while pushing Cuba to accelerate cautious market-style reforms and allow greater political and economic freedom. Even so, the U.S. embargo against Cuba remains in place, a major irritant in relations. Only Congress can lift the embargo, and the Republican leadership is not expected to allow such a move anytime soon. REUTERS/Alberto Reyes
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FREEZING RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA: President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have never had anything close to personal chemistry. From Russia's decision to grant asylum to fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to the annexation of Crimea and Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, a long list of grievances separate the two governments. Scrutinizing body language between the two has become a diplomatic pastime as Obama and Putin have engaged in some of the most awkward personal encounters of U.S. and Russian leaders since the end of the Cold War.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

FREEZING RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA: President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have never had anything close to personal chemistry. From Russia's decision to grant asylum to fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to the...more

FREEZING RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA: President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin have never had anything close to personal chemistry. From Russia's decision to grant asylum to fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden to the annexation of Crimea and Russia's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria's civil war, a long list of grievances separate the two governments. Scrutinizing body language between the two has become a diplomatic pastime as Obama and Putin have engaged in some of the most awkward personal encounters of U.S. and Russian leaders since the end of the Cold War. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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THE WAR IN SYRIA: The Syrian civil war -- and the sense of U.S. powerlessness as it unfolded -- deepened the world�s worst humanitarian crisis in decades and stained Obama's legacy, and suggests that Obama likely will be judged by history as much for what he did not do as for what he did.

He first called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave power in 2011. But Obama never supplied moderate rebels with enough firepower to topple him or force him to the negotiating table. His failure to carry out threatened air strikes to enforce his 2012 "red line" over Assad's use of banned chemical weapons dealt a heavy blow to U.S. standing, including by some of his staunchest regional allies.

Obama also rejected recommendations by members of his national security team for tougher action against Assad. Instead, he gave priority to striking Islamic State with a U.S.-led bombing campaign and local allies assisted by relatively small numbers of U.S. special forces.

The strategy hewed to a prescription Obama laid out in a 2014 West Point speech in which he made clear he would intervene in foreign conflicts only when he believed U.S. interests were threatened.

That led to the return of thousands of U.S. military personnel to Iraq to support Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State.

But in Syria, despite providing billions of dollars in relief aid for refugees, Obama's approach has failed to quell what some have called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.

Obama recently told an interviewer that the grim situation in Syria "haunts me constantly" - although he insisted there was not much he would have done differently.

REUTERS/Mohammed Badra

THE WAR IN SYRIA: The Syrian civil war -- and the sense of U.S. powerlessness as it unfolded -- deepened the world�s worst humanitarian crisis in decades and stained Obama's legacy, and suggests that Obama likely will be judged by history as much for...more

THE WAR IN SYRIA: The Syrian civil war -- and the sense of U.S. powerlessness as it unfolded -- deepened the world�s worst humanitarian crisis in decades and stained Obama's legacy, and suggests that Obama likely will be judged by history as much for what he did not do as for what he did. He first called on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave power in 2011. But Obama never supplied moderate rebels with enough firepower to topple him or force him to the negotiating table. His failure to carry out threatened air strikes to enforce his 2012 "red line" over Assad's use of banned chemical weapons dealt a heavy blow to U.S. standing, including by some of his staunchest regional allies. Obama also rejected recommendations by members of his national security team for tougher action against Assad. Instead, he gave priority to striking Islamic State with a U.S.-led bombing campaign and local allies assisted by relatively small numbers of U.S. special forces. The strategy hewed to a prescription Obama laid out in a 2014 West Point speech in which he made clear he would intervene in foreign conflicts only when he believed U.S. interests were threatened. That led to the return of thousands of U.S. military personnel to Iraq to support Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State. But in Syria, despite providing billions of dollars in relief aid for refugees, Obama's approach has failed to quell what some have called the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two. Obama recently told an interviewer that the grim situation in Syria "haunts me constantly" - although he insisted there was not much he would have done differently. REUTERS/Mohammed Badra
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THE RED LINE ON SYRIA: On August 21, 2013, Syria's opposition accused government forces of gassing hundreds of people by firing rockets that released deadly fumes over rebel-held neighborhoods near Damascus, killing men, women and children as they slept.

Obama made repeated warnings to Syria in the year leading up to that attack, saying in August 2012 that the use or deployment of chemical or biological weapons in his country's conflict would be a "red line" for the United States. "A red line for us is (if) we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus," he tells reporters. 

Obama's failure to carry out threatened air strikes to enforce his 2012 "red line" over Assad's use of banned chemical weapons dealt a heavy blow to U.S. standing, including by some of his staunchest regional allies.

One danger of such action was that Russian and Syrian forces are often co-mingled, raising the possibility of a direct confrontation with Russia.

REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah

THE RED LINE ON SYRIA: On August 21, 2013, Syria's opposition accused government forces of gassing hundreds of people by firing rockets that released deadly fumes over rebel-held neighborhoods near Damascus, killing men, women and children as they...more

THE RED LINE ON SYRIA: On August 21, 2013, Syria's opposition accused government forces of gassing hundreds of people by firing rockets that released deadly fumes over rebel-held neighborhoods near Damascus, killing men, women and children as they slept. Obama made repeated warnings to Syria in the year leading up to that attack, saying in August 2012 that the use or deployment of chemical or biological weapons in his country's conflict would be a "red line" for the United States. "A red line for us is (if) we see a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around, or being utilized. That would change my calculus," he tells reporters. Obama's failure to carry out threatened air strikes to enforce his 2012 "red line" over Assad's use of banned chemical weapons dealt a heavy blow to U.S. standing, including by some of his staunchest regional allies. One danger of such action was that Russian and Syrian forces are often co-mingled, raising the possibility of a direct confrontation with Russia. REUTERS/Mohamed Abdullah
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THE WAR AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE: Obama deployed U.S. troops to Iraq, Syria and Libya to help fight the Islamic State militant group by relying on the authority Congress granted President George W. Bush to battle al Qaeda.

Obama attempted to seize back as much territory as he could from the jihadists before he leaves office, launching the Mosul campaign just three weeks before Nov. 8 election. But Iraq and the United States launched a crucial battle to liberate Mosul without determining how its volatile region will be governed once Islamic State militants are ejected.

U.S. officials acknowledge gaps and risks in the plan for Mosul, amid worries that defeat of Islamic State in its de facto Iraqi capital could give way to sectarian score-settling and land grabs in the country's ethnically mixed north.

The United States has repeatedly found in recent years that the aftermath of war can prove more troublesome than the fighting itself. It invaded Iraq in 2003 without a detailed post-war plan and with insufficient troops, contributing to the chaos that still engulfs the country more than 13 years later.


REUTERS/Stringer

THE WAR AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE: Obama deployed U.S. troops to Iraq, Syria and Libya to help fight the Islamic State militant group by relying on the authority Congress granted President George W. Bush to battle al Qaeda. Obama attempted to seize back...more

THE WAR AGAINST ISLAMIC STATE: Obama deployed U.S. troops to Iraq, Syria and Libya to help fight the Islamic State militant group by relying on the authority Congress granted President George W. Bush to battle al Qaeda. Obama attempted to seize back as much territory as he could from the jihadists before he leaves office, launching the Mosul campaign just three weeks before Nov. 8 election. But Iraq and the United States launched a crucial battle to liberate Mosul without determining how its volatile region will be governed once Islamic State militants are ejected. U.S. officials acknowledge gaps and risks in the plan for Mosul, amid worries that defeat of Islamic State in its de facto Iraqi capital could give way to sectarian score-settling and land grabs in the country's ethnically mixed north. The United States has repeatedly found in recent years that the aftermath of war can prove more troublesome than the fighting itself. It invaded Iraq in 2003 without a detailed post-war plan and with insufficient troops, contributing to the chaos that still engulfs the country more than 13 years later. REUTERS/Stringer
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HISTORIC PRISON VISIT: Obama, who wrote in his memoir about using marijuana and cocaine as a youth, became the first sitting president to tour a federal prison and met drug-offense inmates, saying he could have been in their place if not for the advantages he had growing up. He vowed to work with wardens and corrections officers to address overcrowding, a piece of his administration's wide-ranging criminal justice reform agenda. More than 1.5 million Americans were in state or federal prisons at the end of 2013, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. African-Americans were 15 percent of the U.S. population at that time but accounted for about a third of its prisoners.

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

HISTORIC PRISON VISIT: Obama, who wrote in his memoir about using marijuana and cocaine as a youth, became the first sitting president to tour a federal prison and met drug-offense inmates, saying he could have been in their place if not for the...more

HISTORIC PRISON VISIT: Obama, who wrote in his memoir about using marijuana and cocaine as a youth, became the first sitting president to tour a federal prison and met drug-offense inmates, saying he could have been in their place if not for the advantages he had growing up. He vowed to work with wardens and corrections officers to address overcrowding, a piece of his administration's wide-ranging criminal justice reform agenda. More than 1.5 million Americans were in state or federal prisons at the end of 2013, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. African-Americans were 15 percent of the U.S. population at that time but accounted for about a third of its prisoners. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING EULOGY: An impassioned President Obama led thousands of mourners in singing "Amazing Grace" at the funeral of a pastor slain in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church shooting in Charleston.

In a speech likely to be considered one of the most memorable of his presidency, Obama paid an emotional tribute to the nine people shot to death at the church and pleaded for Americans to use the tragedy as a way to bridge racial divide. He also urged Americans to eliminate symbols of oppression and racism, including the Confederate battle flag, calling it "a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation."

At the end of his speech, Obama launched into a rendition of the 18th century hymn, written by a former slave trader after his conversion to Christianity and often associated with African-American struggles. It was a poignant scene for America's first black president who has often been reluctant to play up his racial heritage.

For a moment, he was alone on stage intoning the hymn before purple-clad ministers beside him smiled, stood up and joined him. Then a church organ kicked in and the mostly African-American crowd of about 5,500 people added their voices.

After the hymn, Obama called out the names of the Charleston shooting victims into the microphone. The crowd responded "Yes," to every name. The cadence of his speech was more like that of a sermon than an address.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING EULOGY: An impassioned President Obama led thousands of mourners in singing "Amazing Grace" at the funeral of a pastor slain in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church shooting in Charleston. In a speech likely to...more

CHARLESTON CHURCH SHOOTING EULOGY: An impassioned President Obama led thousands of mourners in singing "Amazing Grace" at the funeral of a pastor slain in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church shooting in Charleston. In a speech likely to be considered one of the most memorable of his presidency, Obama paid an emotional tribute to the nine people shot to death at the church and pleaded for Americans to use the tragedy as a way to bridge racial divide. He also urged Americans to eliminate symbols of oppression and racism, including the Confederate battle flag, calling it "a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation." At the end of his speech, Obama launched into a rendition of the 18th century hymn, written by a former slave trader after his conversion to Christianity and often associated with African-American struggles. It was a poignant scene for America's first black president who has often been reluctant to play up his racial heritage. For a moment, he was alone on stage intoning the hymn before purple-clad ministers beside him smiled, stood up and joined him. Then a church organ kicked in and the mostly African-American crowd of about 5,500 people added their voices. After the hymn, Obama called out the names of the Charleston shooting victims into the microphone. The crowd responded "Yes," to every name. The cadence of his speech was more like that of a sermon than an address. REUTERS/Brian Snyder
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50th ANNIVERSARY OF SELMA MARCH: "Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we're getting closer," Obama said in March 2015, standing near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police and state troopers beat and fired tear gas at peaceful marchers who were advocating against racial discrimination at the voting booth in 1965. Obama said discrimination by law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Missouri, that was revealed in a U.S. Justice Department report accusing police and court officials of racial bias showed a lot of work still needs to be done on race in America, but he warned it was wrong to suggest that progress had not been made.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

50th ANNIVERSARY OF SELMA MARCH: "Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we're getting closer," Obama said in March 2015, standing near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police and state troopers beat and fired tear gas at...more

50th ANNIVERSARY OF SELMA MARCH: "Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we're getting closer," Obama said in March 2015, standing near the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police and state troopers beat and fired tear gas at peaceful marchers who were advocating against racial discrimination at the voting booth in 1965. Obama said discrimination by law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Missouri, that was revealed in a U.S. Justice Department report accusing police and court officials of racial bias showed a lot of work still needs to be done on race in America, but he warned it was wrong to suggest that progress had not been made. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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FINANCIAL REFORM: In July 2010, Obama signed into law the most comprehensive financial regulatory overhaul since the Great Depression. The law targeted the kind of Wall Street risk-taking that helped trigger a global financial meltdown in 2007-2009 and also strengthened consumer protections.

Obama pledged taxpayers would never again have to pump billions of dollars into failing firms to protect the economy. "Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama said at the signing ceremony. "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period."

REUTERS/Larry Downing

FINANCIAL REFORM: In July 2010, Obama signed into law the most comprehensive financial regulatory overhaul since the Great Depression. The law targeted the kind of Wall Street risk-taking that helped trigger a global financial meltdown in 2007-2009...more

FINANCIAL REFORM: In July 2010, Obama signed into law the most comprehensive financial regulatory overhaul since the Great Depression. The law targeted the kind of Wall Street risk-taking that helped trigger a global financial meltdown in 2007-2009 and also strengthened consumer protections. Obama pledged taxpayers would never again have to pump billions of dollars into failing firms to protect the economy. "Because of this law, the American people will never again be asked to foot the bill for Wall Street's mistakes," Obama said at the signing ceremony. "There will be no more taxpayer-funded bailouts. Period." REUTERS/Larry Downing
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PUSH FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: Obama's plan to spare millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation was blocked by the Supreme Court in a June 2016 split ruling. The plan was tailored to let roughly 4 million people - those who have lived illegally in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents - get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits.

While Congress continued to reject the Dream Act that was first introduced in 2001, Obama enacted through executive order the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in what became known as "the mini-Dream Act order" in June 2012. He directed the Department of Homeland Security not to deport undocumented immigrants brought here as children who meet certain other requirements. This came after a Senate filibuster two years ago killed legislation allowing immigration rights for people brought to the United States illegally as children.

REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

PUSH FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: Obama's plan to spare millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation was blocked by the Supreme Court in a June 2016 split ruling. The plan was tailored to let roughly 4 million people - those who have...more

PUSH FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM: Obama's plan to spare millions of immigrants in the country illegally from deportation was blocked by the Supreme Court in a June 2016 split ruling. The plan was tailored to let roughly 4 million people - those who have lived illegally in the United States at least since 2010, have no criminal record and have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents - get into a program that shields them from deportation and supplies work permits. While Congress continued to reject the Dream Act that was first introduced in 2001, Obama enacted through executive order the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), in what became known as "the mini-Dream Act order" in June 2012. He directed the Department of Homeland Security not to deport undocumented immigrants brought here as children who meet certain other requirements. This came after a Senate filibuster two years ago killed legislation allowing immigration rights for people brought to the United States illegally as children. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn
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DEPORTATIONS CONTINUE: Since taking office in January 2009, Obama shifted focus away from rounding up illegal immigrants in workplace raids -- the policy under George Bush -- to identifying criminal immigrants held in U.S. jails and removing them. Obama has said criminal immigrants and those who have recently entered the country are priorities for deportation.

During Obama's tenure, more than 2.7 million people were "removed" from the U.S., according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data from 2009 to 2016 -- more than any other president in history, leading some Latino activists to call him "deporter in chief".

REUTERS/Carlos Barria

DEPORTATIONS CONTINUE: Since taking office in January 2009, Obama shifted focus away from rounding up illegal immigrants in workplace raids -- the policy under George Bush -- to identifying criminal immigrants held in U.S. jails and removing them....more

DEPORTATIONS CONTINUE: Since taking office in January 2009, Obama shifted focus away from rounding up illegal immigrants in workplace raids -- the policy under George Bush -- to identifying criminal immigrants held in U.S. jails and removing them. Obama has said criminal immigrants and those who have recently entered the country are priorities for deportation. During Obama's tenure, more than 2.7 million people were "removed" from the U.S., according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data from 2009 to 2016 -- more than any other president in history, leading some Latino activists to call him "deporter in chief". REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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COMMITMENT TO NATIVE AMERICANS: In 2014, Obama visited Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, his first visit as president to an American Indian reservation. The visit was a demonstration of his administration's commitment to a strong relationship between Washington and tribal nations, and to improve the plight of a proud people struggling with relentless cycles of poverty.

During his tenure, the Obama administration settled lawsuits with 17 tribes for alleged federal mismanagement of their funds and lands, resolved more than 100 tribal claims, pushed to reform the Indian Health Service, and launched a task force on human trafficking on reservations. In his first year in office, Obama also created the Tribal Nations Conference, where leaders of more than 560 Native American tribes gather annually in Washington.

REUTERS/Larry Downing

COMMITMENT TO NATIVE AMERICANS: In 2014, Obama visited Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, his first visit as president to an American Indian reservation. The visit was a demonstration of his administration's commitment to a strong relationship...more

COMMITMENT TO NATIVE AMERICANS: In 2014, Obama visited Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation, his first visit as president to an American Indian reservation. The visit was a demonstration of his administration's commitment to a strong relationship between Washington and tribal nations, and to improve the plight of a proud people struggling with relentless cycles of poverty. During his tenure, the Obama administration settled lawsuits with 17 tribes for alleged federal mismanagement of their funds and lands, resolved more than 100 tribal claims, pushed to reform the Indian Health Service, and launched a task force on human trafficking on reservations. In his first year in office, Obama also created the Tribal Nations Conference, where leaders of more than 560 Native American tribes gather annually in Washington. REUTERS/Larry Downing
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STANDING ROCK PIPELINE PROTESTS: Thousands of Native Americans and environmental activists camped on federal property for months to protest the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota, as police turned water hoses on protesters in sub-freezing temperatures. They said construction would damage sacred lands and any leaks could pollute the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

In December 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected an application for the pipeline to tunnel under Lake Oahe. The Army Corps said it would analyze possible alternate routes. As a result of the Standing Rock pipeline project, Obama announced requirements for federal agencies to consider native treaty rights in decision-making on natural resource projects, hoping to avoid similar future conflicts. Protesters celebrated the decision, but some expressed concern their victory could be short-lived, with the prospect of Donald Trump reversing the decision after he takes office.

REUTERS/Stephanie Keith

STANDING ROCK PIPELINE PROTESTS: Thousands of Native Americans and environmental activists camped on federal property for months to protest the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota, as police turned water hoses on protesters in...more

STANDING ROCK PIPELINE PROTESTS: Thousands of Native Americans and environmental activists camped on federal property for months to protest the $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipeline project in North Dakota, as police turned water hoses on protesters in sub-freezing temperatures. They said construction would damage sacred lands and any leaks could pollute the water supply of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. In December 2016, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rejected an application for the pipeline to tunnel under Lake Oahe. The Army Corps said it would analyze possible alternate routes. As a result of the Standing Rock pipeline project, Obama announced requirements for federal agencies to consider native treaty rights in decision-making on natural resource projects, hoping to avoid similar future conflicts. Protesters celebrated the decision, but some expressed concern their victory could be short-lived, with the prospect of Donald Trump reversing the decision after he takes office. REUTERS/Stephanie Keith
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APPOINTING JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve in the history of the Supreme Court after being appointed in August 2009. Obama said in approving the appointment, the Senate had upheld American ideals of justice, equality and opportunity. "They're ideals she's fought for throughout her career, and the ideals the Senate has upheld today in breaking yet another barrier and moving us yet another step closer to a more perfect union," he said.

REUTERS/Jim Young

APPOINTING JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve in the history of the Supreme Court after being appointed in August 2009. Obama said in approving the appointment, the Senate had upheld American...more

APPOINTING JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR: Sotomayor became the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve in the history of the Supreme Court after being appointed in August 2009. Obama said in approving the appointment, the Senate had upheld American ideals of justice, equality and opportunity. "They're ideals she's fought for throughout her career, and the ideals the Senate has upheld today in breaking yet another barrier and moving us yet another step closer to a more perfect union," he said. REUTERS/Jim Young
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APPOINTING JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: Elena Kagan joined the Supreme Court in August 2010, becoming the fourth female justice in history and the third woman on the current nine-member court. Obama praised her as a consensus-builder who champions the rights of ordinary citizens.

REUTERS/Larry Downing

APPOINTING JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: Elena Kagan joined the Supreme Court in August 2010, becoming the fourth female justice in history and the third woman on the current nine-member court. Obama praised her as a consensus-builder who champions the rights...more

APPOINTING JUSTICE ELENA KAGAN: Elena Kagan joined the Supreme Court in August 2010, becoming the fourth female justice in history and the third woman on the current nine-member court. Obama praised her as a consensus-builder who champions the rights of ordinary citizens. REUTERS/Larry Downing
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BANNING TORTURE: Obama banned the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding shortly after he took office in January 2009. In 2014, he reaffirmed the decision, saying the CIA "tortured some folks" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values," Obama told a White House news conference. "It's important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had," he said. "A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots."

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has said he would roll back the ban on waterboarding, and vowed to "bring back a hell of a lot worse".

REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

BANNING TORTURE: Obama banned the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding shortly after he took office in January 2009. In 2014, he reaffirmed the decision, saying the CIA "tortured some folks" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "We did...more

BANNING TORTURE: Obama banned the use of interrogation techniques such as waterboarding shortly after he took office in January 2009. In 2014, he reaffirmed the decision, saying the CIA "tortured some folks" after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values," Obama told a White House news conference. "It's important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had," he said. "A lot of those folks were working hard under enormous pressure and are real patriots." On the campaign trail, Donald Trump has said he would roll back the ban on waterboarding, and vowed to "bring back a hell of a lot worse". REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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WITHDRAWING FROM IRAQ: After nine years of war that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, the last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq in December 2011, leaving a country grappling with political uncertainty. The military pullout was the fulfilment of Obama's election promise to bring troops home from a conflict inherited from his predecessor, the most unpopular war since Vietnam and one that tainted America's standing worldwide.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

WITHDRAWING FROM IRAQ: After nine years of war that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, the last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq in December 2011, leaving a country grappling with political uncertainty. The...more

WITHDRAWING FROM IRAQ: After nine years of war that cost almost 4,500 American and tens of thousands of Iraqi lives, the last convoy of U.S. soldiers pulled out of Iraq in December 2011, leaving a country grappling with political uncertainty. The military pullout was the fulfilment of Obama's election promise to bring troops home from a conflict inherited from his predecessor, the most unpopular war since Vietnam and one that tainted America's standing worldwide. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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OBAMA AND THE MUSLIM WORLD: Addressing the world's more than 1 billion Muslims from Cairo, Obama called for a "new beginning" in ties between Washington and the Islamic world in his June 2009 speech that also tackled grievances over two U.S.-led wars and tensions over Iran.

Obama sought to change Muslim perceptions of the United States in the speech. "We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate," Obama said in the address that included quotes from Islam's holy book, the Koran.

"I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect," he said. "America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition."

REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

OBAMA AND THE MUSLIM WORLD: Addressing the world's more than 1 billion Muslims from Cairo, Obama called for a "new beginning" in ties between Washington and the Islamic world in his June 2009 speech that also tackled grievances over two U.S.-led wars...more

OBAMA AND THE MUSLIM WORLD: Addressing the world's more than 1 billion Muslims from Cairo, Obama called for a "new beginning" in ties between Washington and the Islamic world in his June 2009 speech that also tackled grievances over two U.S.-led wars and tensions over Iran. Obama sought to change Muslim perceptions of the United States in the speech. "We meet at a time of tension between the United States and Muslims around the world -- tension rooted in historical forces that go beyond any current policy debate," Obama said in the address that included quotes from Islam's holy book, the Koran. "I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect," he said. "America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition." REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri
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FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE: The U.S. signed the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016, joining China in a joint step by the world's top emitters. Obama called the signing "a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations" and he told reporters on the White House Rose Garden: "If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet."

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE: The U.S. signed the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016, joining China in a joint step by the world's top emitters. Obama called the signing "a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future...more

FIGHTING CLIMATE CHANGE: The U.S. signed the Paris Agreement on climate change in April 2016, joining China in a joint step by the world's top emitters. Obama called the signing "a historic day in the fight to protect our planet for future generations" and he told reporters on the White House Rose Garden: "If we follow through on the commitments that this Paris agreement embodies, history may well judge it as a turning point for our planet." REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
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ATOMIC LEGACY OF HIROSHIMA: Obama became the first incumbent U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in May 2016, site of the world's first atomic bombing, in a gesture Tokyo and Washington hope will showcase their alliance and reinvigorate efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms, saying, "Amongst those nations like my own that own nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them."

"We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans and a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us."

"We have known the agony of war," Obama wrote in the guest book. "Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons." He left two paper cranes alongside his inscription, the White House said.

REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama/Pool

ATOMIC LEGACY OF HIROSHIMA: Obama became the first incumbent U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in May 2016, site of the world's first atomic bombing, in a gesture Tokyo and Washington hope will showcase their alliance and reinvigorate efforts to rid...more

ATOMIC LEGACY OF HIROSHIMA: Obama became the first incumbent U.S. president to visit Hiroshima in May 2016, site of the world's first atomic bombing, in a gesture Tokyo and Washington hope will showcase their alliance and reinvigorate efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms, saying, "Amongst those nations like my own that own nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them." "We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans and a dozen Americans held prisoner. Their souls speak to us." "We have known the agony of war," Obama wrote in the guest book. "Let us now find the courage, together, to spread peace, and pursue a world without nuclear weapons." He left two paper cranes alongside his inscription, the White House said. REUTERS/Kimimasa Mayama/Pool
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BEER SUMMIT: In July 2009, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home by Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley, who was investigating a report of a burglary in process. Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct. In the aftermath, Obama inflamed tensions by saying police had "acted stupidly". Obama's remark became a major talking point in the United States, with critics saying he had insulted Crowley and the police department in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Some conservative commentators accused Obama of racism.

REUTERS/Jim Young

BEER SUMMIT: In July 2009, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home by Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley, who was investigating a report of a burglary in process. Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly...more

BEER SUMMIT: In July 2009, Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates was arrested at his Cambridge, Massachusetts home by Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley, who was investigating a report of a burglary in process. Crowley arrested Gates for disorderly conduct. In the aftermath, Obama inflamed tensions by saying police had "acted stupidly". Obama's remark became a major talking point in the United States, with critics saying he had insulted Crowley and the police department in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Some conservative commentators accused Obama of racism. REUTERS/Jim Young
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LILLY LEDBETTER EQUAL PAY ACT: The first bill Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination. Ledbetter is an Alabama woman who discovered after 19 years on the job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at her plant despite having more experience than several male co-workers. A jury found she was the victim of discrimination. But during the Bush administration, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision reversed what critics described as decades of legal precedent by declaring that discrimination claims must be filed within 180 days of the first offense.

REUTERS/Larry Downing

LILLY LEDBETTER EQUAL PAY ACT: The first bill Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination. Ledbetter is an Alabama woman who...more

LILLY LEDBETTER EQUAL PAY ACT: The first bill Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended time periods for employees to file claims for wages lost as a result of discrimination. Ledbetter is an Alabama woman who discovered after 19 years on the job at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at her plant despite having more experience than several male co-workers. A jury found she was the victim of discrimination. But during the Bush administration, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision reversed what critics described as decades of legal precedent by declaring that discrimination claims must be filed within 180 days of the first offense. REUTERS/Larry Downing
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