Former US President Barack Obama seemed to make a dig at the current US administration during his first major speech since stepping down. But what did Barack Obama say in the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture?
Barack Obama spoke to an audience of 15,000 people in South Africa’s main city, Johannesburg, for the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture.He was there as part of the celebrations marking 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela.
The former President of South Africa, whose government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism, is honoured every year on July 18.
But during Obama’s lecture, he seemed to make a thinly veiled criticism at the current US administration’s use of “alternative facts”.
Obama said he could find common ground with people who disagreed with the Paris accord on climate change if they had an argument based on fact.
Current President of the USA Donald Trump has previously said he wants to pull out of the accord, as he thinks climate change is not real.
Obama said during his keynote speech:
“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 is going to be hard for us to co-operate.
“I can’t find common ground if someone says climate change is not happening when almost all the world’s scientists say it is. If you start saying it is an elaborate hoax, where do we start?”
Obama told the audience a moment later:
“It used to be if you caught politicians lying, they said: ‘Oh man’. Now they just keep on lying.”
He then went on to say striving towards equality can ensure a society can draw on the talents and energy of all its people.
The room erupted in cheers as he referred to France’s World Cup victory last week.
“Just look at the French football team. Not all of those folks looked like Gauls to me, but they are French – they are French.”
Barack Obama added the world’s elite were “out of touch” with the lives of the poor.
“In their business dealings, many titans of industry… are increasingly detached from any nation-state” and they “live lives more and more isolated from ordinary people,” he said.
He made the case for liberal democracy, saying that he believed it offered the better future for humanity rather than populism and “strongman politics” – a political leader who rules by force.
“I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision” for the world’s future, I believe that a world governed by such principals is possible.
“It can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good. “I believe we have no choice but to move forward… I believe it is based on hard evidence. The fact that the world’s most prosperous and successful societies happen to be those which have most closely approximated the liberal progressive ideal that we talk about.
“Things may go backwards for a while, but – ultimately – right makes might. Not the other way around.”
Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013 aged 95, led the fight against white minority rule in South Africa.
He was 27 years in prison before becoming the country’s first democratically elected president in 1994. Both he and Obama were the first black presidents of their countries.
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