Obama Makes Waves in His Speech to Black Colleges

The former president says officials 'aren't even pretending to be in charge'
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted May 16, 2020 3:30 PM CDT
Obama Strikes Again: 'The Curtain' Is Finally 'Torn Back'
In this Nov. 2, 2018, file photo, former President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign rally for Democratic candidates in Miami.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

The media was waiting for this one—and Barack Obama didn't disappoint. The former president, who's been making headlines with his jabs at the Trump administration, rolled out new quotes Saturday in an online commencement speech to historically black colleges and universities, the New York Times reports. So let's get to them:

  • Tearing back the curtain: "More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they're doing," Mr. Obama said in his address. "A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge."
  • COVID-19 and jogging: "You're being asked to find your way in the world in the middle of a devastating pandemic and terrible recession. The timing is not ideal," said Obama, per the Washington Post. "And let's be honest. A disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country. We see it in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our communities, just as we see it when a black man goes for a jog, and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning." (That's a reference to the Ahmaud Arbery shooting.)
  • Waking up to the facts: "Injustice like this isn't new," he went on. "What is new is that so much of your generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing; that the old ways of doing things don’t work; that it doesn't matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick; and that our society and democracy only works when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other."
(Obama recently made waves with these thoughts, which triggered this criticism, and this backpedaling.)

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