Obama Inspires Hope During His Speech In South Africa Honoring Mandela’s 100th Birthday

Written by Ann Brown

Former President Barack Obama has returned Africa. Among various stops on the continent, Obama visited his father’s homeland, Kenya, where he met up with President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Dr. Auma Obama, his half sister, in Nairobi.

Obama traveled to Kenya to promote the opening of a sports and training center that Auma, founded through her charitable foundation, Sauti Kuu, The Associated Press reported.

Sauti Kuu is based in Nairobi and works with children and young people, most notable from urban slums and rural communities.

Barack Obama first visited Kenya in 1987; returned as a senator in 2006 and again as president in 2015.

But this was just one stop on Obama’s itinerary. He was in Africa to commemorate what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

Earlier today, Obama delivered the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture before thousands of South Africans.

Obama has often spoken of how much Mandela influenced him and gave a eulogy at the late president’s 2013 memorial service. When Obama was a senator, he had his picture taken with Mandela. When he became president, Mandela kept in his office a copy of the photo that Obama sent him, according to the Associated Press,” the Washington Post reported.

Obama made use of the high-profile speech to comment on “strongman politics” and politicians’ disregard for the facts.

“You have to believe in facts,” said Mr Obama, “without facts there is no basis for cooperation.

“If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it is going to be hard for us to cooperate.”

Here are some of highlights from the speech, as reported by the BBC.

On immigration being a benefit for countries: “Just look at the French football team,” referring to France’s recent World Cup. “Not all of those folks looked like Gauls to me, but they are French–they are French.”

On how business titans have lost touch with everyday people: “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. As a result, their decisions to “shut down a factory” were seen as simply a “rational response” to shareholders’ demands.

On the future of democracy:  “It is time for us to stop paying all of our attention to the world’s capitals… and focus on the world’s grassroots. That is where democracy comes from,” he added.

Obama warned against growing populism and “strongman politics,” as he made the case for liberal democracy, saying that he believed it offered the better future for humanity.

“I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision” for the world’s future, he said, “I believe that a world governed by such principals is possible.”

On hope: “Keep believing. Keep marching. Keep building. Keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world,” Obama said at the end of his speech.

“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.”

Former US President Barack Obama, back right, with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, back left, behind members of the Soweto Gospel Choir singing the South African national anthem, as Obama arrives at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, July 17, 2018 to deliver the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture. Obama urged Africans and people around the world to respect human rights and equal opportunity in his speech to mark the late Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)


Ann Brown
Image Attribution: Former U.S. President Barack Obama, waves as he leaves the stage after delivering his speech at the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, July 17, 2018. In his highest-profile speech since leaving office, Obama urged people around the world to respect human rights and other values under threat in an address marking the 100th anniversary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's birth. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)