'Politics of fear': Obama rebukes Trump in Mandela address
18 July, 2018, 21:57 | Author: Dominic Spencer
The Democratic former US president did not name his Republican successor, Donald Trump, but the speech was among the most pointed comments he has made about politics since leaving office in January 2017.
"As with the denial of rights, the denial of facts runs counter to democracy", he added.
"We are very pleased that this enables us to tell the complete Madiba story as it includes scenes of his childhood in the Transkei; being sent to live with the Tembu Regent, Jongintaba; his move to Johannesburg and experiencing the vibrance of Sophiatown and its destruction, and his internship with the Johannesburg law firm, Witkin, Sidelsky and Eidelman and many other watershed moments in his life".
"Just by standing on the stage honouring Nelson Mandela, Obama is delivering an eloquent rebuke to Trump", said John Stremlau, professor of worldwide relations at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, who called the timing auspicious as the commitments that defined Mandela's life are "under assault" in the USA and elsewhere.
But he also warned of the impact that "strongman politics" is having on democratic institutions, like the press. "Politicians have always lied, but it used to be if you caught them lying they'd be like, 'Oh man.' Now they just keep on lying", Obama joked with the assembled attendees.
Since leaving the White House, Mr Obama has largely avoided direct involvement in United States politics and has refrained from criticising Mr Trump. I believe in Nelson Mandela's vision, I believe in a vision shared by (Mahatma) Gandhi and (Martin Luther) King, and Abraham Lincoln, I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on a pretense that all people are created equal and are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.
After Bill Clinton, Barack Obama will be the second ex-US president to give the lecture. I believe it is based on hard evidence. "Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world", Mr Obama said, ending his speech on a positive note.
To loud cheers, he called on young people listening to him to get "fired up".
"Mandela said young people are capable when aroused of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom", he said. "Now is a good time to be aroused".
Mr Obama has said he was "one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life".
Mandela, who died in 2013, remains a global icon for his long struggle against white-minority apartheid rule and for his message of peace and reconciliation after being freed following 27 years in prison.
He added: "Who took the baton when he became president of his own country?"
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The couple's 2-year-old son was in the audience in the arms of his grandmother, who covered her eyes as the audience gasped. Mary's fall was buffeted by a safety mat on the ground and she soon stood to show the audience she was not hurt.
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