In one of his first high-profile appearances since 2016, ex-President Barack Obama delivered a rebuke of the “utter loss of shame among political leaders” and “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment” while giving a speech to honor former South African President Nelson Mandela.
While Obama didn’t criticize President Donald Trump by name, his remarks came only a day after Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, the Associated Press reports. Obama began his speech, which honored the 100th anniversary of the anti-apartheid leader’s birth, by referencing the “strange and uncertain” world in which “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines.” “We see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal, way of doing business,” he said.
Obama went on to attack “strongman politics,” arguing that “those in power seek to undermine every institution … that gives democracy meaning.” He ended positively, however, reminding the audience: “We’ve been through darker times. We’ve been through lower valleys.” “I say if people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love,” said Obama, who received a standing ovation and widespread praise after the speech. “Yesterday we had Trump and Putin standing together,” one Johannesburg professor said, “now we are seeing the opposing team: Obama and Mandela.” Read more.