The Obama presidency: An opinionated look

(CNN)Eight years ago, Barack Obama, America's first African-American President, was elected on a vision of hope and change. He told the nation in his first inaugural speech: "There are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans." CNN Opinion's contributors and expert commentators were ready to weigh in.

Here is a selection of op-eds that help tell the tale of Obama's historic two terms in office. The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the author.
"Today, Barack Obama is hope for a better tomorrow for all Americans. He stands on the shoulders of all those people who have incessantly prayed for a day when 'justice will run down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.' "
'Last Days of the Obama White House'

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"President-elect Obama faces enormous mountains to climb that will require enormous public support. He will no doubt pursue the policies he considers best for digging our nation out of some deep ditches, both domestically and internationally. ... (T)he style that led him to the White House -- a calm, thoughtful, steady approach to policy combined with an extraordinary capacity to inspire -- is the same style that will make him an extraordinary leader."
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"The President's polling numbers at home are coming in at an impressive rate. A Democracy Corps poll taken this week found that the percentage of likely voters saying the country is going in the right direction is up to 38 percent, the highest level recorded in more than three years."
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"As an American, I am proud when our President does well overseas. Being humble worked much better than being cocky. But in order to lead, you must be tough. Being liked is important. Being respected will be the test. The President had a great opening round, but there are many more rounds to fight."
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"For both George W. Bush and Obama, catching (Osama) bin Laden was the big prize. Whoever got him would carry a bigger stick. And that's what Obama has just done."
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"Obama has lost his way so badly that even his core liberal supporters should be questioning whether they have got the right man in the job."
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"A wise executive -- in a school, a business or a nation -- must help his or her team learn to respect all styles of self-presentation and to listen to all views, as Obama evidently did when it was brought to his attention."
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"I knew how serious this problem is. Nearly one in three of our children are overweight or obese, at risk for illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer that cost our economy billions of dollars each year to treat. I also knew the conventional wisdom on this issue. ..."
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"At 8:20 Friday morning, in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, Obama gathered some of his top aides around him and said simply, 'I've considered the decision: It's a go.'... If you still think this was an easy call, I have a compound in Abbottabad I'd like to sell to you."
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"When a president who wants to be transformational runs a campaign that wants to deliver transparent caricatures, there's a downside. The candidate starts looking like all the other pols."
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"You may believe that we, as a country, shouldn't pay for care for the uninsured. But most of us are unwilling to let the sick, especially children, suffer. So we -- individual Americans -- have been paying for this health care, saving those companies money, regardless of whether we availed ourselves of their services. No longer. Under the Affordable Care Act, those costs will be the responsibility of those businesses and eventually their customers."
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"Some 2.6 million men and woman answered the call to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan. But now, a decade later, President Barack Obama is not answering their calls for help. And the public still doesn't seem to get it."
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"Obama's humor is often delivered the way a comedian dealing with a heckler would do it. He tries to undermine his opponents with it and get the crowd -- in this case the public -- on his side."
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"It's impossible to believe that anyone could seriously call President Obama a chauvinist over this banter between friends. No matter your politics, you will have a hard time finding a president who has included women more in his agenda. What has he done for us lately? Let me recall just a few things. ...
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"The other, more troubling possibility is that the President surrendered to his political instincts. He wants disadvantaged Americans to believe that he and his family are one of them -- despite their life of unparalleled privilege -- and he wanted the prosecutors, judge and jury to believe that this was a case about race where justice demanded a guilty verdict."
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"Obama doesn't want to be responsible for the red lines he set either, apparently. He insisted that when it came to (Bashar) al-Assad's use of chemical weapons, 'I didn't set a red line; the world set a red line.' "
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"Others will accuse Obama of promoting division by using the office to highlight the issues of minorities over those of their white counterparts. As if one in three black males being projected to go to prison at some point in their lives can be construed as some sort of highlight. But such is the world of the first black President of these United States."
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"This is the new, all-drama Obama. And all of that pent-up energy, ambition and action, barely two months after losing control of the Senate. 'Anyone would become annoyed and frustrated if you were accused of being a wuss,' says a senior Democratic policy adviser. 'And it's always better to be on offense than defense.' "
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"I find it hard to believe that collectively President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Attorney General Eric Holder -- who was actually in France that day for a conference on counterterrorism -- just had no time in their schedules on Sunday."
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"You have mounting pressure on President Obama from an increasingly frustrated Latino community and Democratic base. He made pie-in-the-sky campaign promises offering immigration reform in his first year in office. In his first two years, he had a Democratic Senate and Democratic House. He had the chance to act. Instead, he sat on his hands as the problem continued to fester."
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"After traveling the world as first lady and meeting so many girls like Raphina and Rihab, I carry their hopes and their ambitions with me everywhere I go, and I plan to continue my work on their behalf not just for my final seven months as first lady, but for the rest of my life. I hope you will join me in this mission."
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"We are so accustomed to gun violence that we have become inured to it -- numb. It's easier. The President cried because he allowed himself to feel something no one wants to feel: the tremendous pain of losing someone you love, the shame of knowing you did nothing to prevent it and the relief that overcomes you when you commit to changing."
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"Obama even has the cheek to blame Europe for Libya's descent into chaos following the 2011 Western intervention. Obama did not want to get involved in another Middle East war. He encouraged Britain and France to take the lead."
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"We have set a clear goal vital to the next chapter of America's story in space: sending humans to Mars by the 2030s and returning them safely to Earth, with the ultimate ambition to one day remain there for an extended time."
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"Obama has left an indelible mark. He and his family occupied the White House with dignity, grace and good humor. He ran an administration that was largely scandal-free. He celebrated and promoted American excellence in every sphere, from science to art to sports. And he did it all while under a microscope, because he looked different."