Obama Speaks at Ceremony Honoring Mandela, Criticizes ‘Strongman Politics’
Former President Barack Obama threw what many are calling thinly-veiled jibes at his successor Donald Trump over what he thinks are strong-man antics. Speaking during the Mandela at 100 celebrations in South Africa, Obama criticized the current administration in the U.S. accusing it of autocracy and retrogressive politics.
Speaking to a cheering crowd of about 15000 people in South Africa’s capital, Johannesburg, Obama rallied the people to keep the dream and ideas of Nelson Mandela alive by working towards democracy, education for all and equality for all races. In his speech, Obama described the times we are living in as “strange and uncertain” and that “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head spinning and disturbing headlines.”
But while the speech was about honoring Nelson Mandela at 100, Obama took the opportunity to chide the current political climate. “You have to believe in facts, without facts there is no basis for co-operation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to cooperate,” he said while disagreeing with Trump’s intention to pull the U.S. from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
According to Obama, climate change is real and happening, but Trump thinks it’s a hoax. “I cannot find common ground if someone says climate change is not happening when almost all of the world’s scientists say it is. If you start saying it is an elaborate hoax, where do we start?” he wondered.
Obama also seized the opportunity to criticize the immigration policies of Trump saying if society can embrace diversity and pool together its resources, talents and energy, then it would create a formidable community. “Just look at the French football team,” said Obama while referring to the French national team that won the cup in the just concluded FIFA World Cup in Russia and also had a considerable number of black players while France is originally a white majority country. “Not all those folks looked like Gauls to me, but they are French – they are French,” he affirmed.
Trump is known for his zero-tolerance immigration policies and advocates for the deportation of illegal and undocumented immigrants whom he thought to be criminals and terrorists. “It is a plain fact that racial discrimination still exists in the U.S. and South Africa” added Obama while hoping for the inclusion of all races in the U.S.
Obama was in South Africa to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s centenary dubbed Mandela at 100. He also confessed that Mandela inspired him and how he grew up looking up to him as a role model. Being the first black South African president, Obama drew inspiration from him as he would later become the first black president of the United States of America.
As CNBC reported, many of the people of South Africa view Obama as continuing in Mandela’s legacy with the fight for racial equality and economic opportunity for the poor. Moses, a 32-year-old South African, told CNBC, “I think he’ll speak about how Mandela changed the system here in South Africa, how he ended apartheid and gave hope for the poor and encouraged education,” he added that many in South Africa were fed up with the corruption in politics.
Obama had earlier made a stop in Kenya where he visited his father’s birthplace and interacted with his Kenyan family.