Former President Barack Obama, while delivering this year’s Nelson Mandela Lecture in South Africa, discussed the “strange and uncertain” times in which we live.
“With each day’s news cycles bringing more head spinning and disturbing headlines,” he said, “I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective.”
The former president warned democracy is under threat from strongman politics.
“Look around — strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are (maintaining) the form of it, where those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning,” he said.
The president did not dwell solely on challenges in the global system. He also struck a more hopeful note in his speech, saying he believes in a vision shared by Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., 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,” Obama said.” And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuits of a common good.”
Obama also said during his remarks that the “politics of fear and resentment” is “now on the move.”
The Mandela Lecture is an annual program of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, “every year since 2003, global leaders have used the lecture to raise topical issues affecting South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.”
This year’s theme was “Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World.” Mandela, the former president of South Africa, oversaw the dismantling of South Africa’s apartheid system of racial segregation. He passed away in 2013.