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As he embarks today on what is expected be his last major trip abroad as president — with stops in Greece, Germany and Peru — Barack Obama might find himself thinking back to that remarkable visit he made to Germany in August 2008 as Democratic nominee.

It was an unprecedented event that included a jam-packed speech near Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, marking the beginning of "Obamania" around the world, recalled German author Richard Herzinger recently in Die Welt. "The boundless euphoria ignited by the man onto whom we had pinned our hopes — even we Germans — even before he was elected for the first time," Herzinger wrote.

Fast forward eight years, and the man coming to Berlin now will be missing a certain sparkle in his eye, after Hillary Clinton's stinging defeat last week to Donald Trump — which was also a major final blow to Obama's own legacy. Herzinger notes the first African-American president's failure "to stop the disintegration of political and societal institutions or the increasingly dangerous polarization of American society."

But the legacy of the outgoing president is also a reminder of the limits of even the most powerful man on Earth. La Stampa's Massimo Gramellini wrote last Wednesday, "Barack Obama was supposed to change the world; instead the world kept changing on its own accord, as if he didn't even exist." Looking ahead to four (or eight) years of President Trump, we can only wonder how much — and in what ways — he will manage to change his country and our world.

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May 21-22

  • A liberated Ukrainian village
  • Long COVID limbo
  • TikToker under fire
  • … and much more.
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