Published: Wed, July 18, 2018
Culture&Arts | By Dora Pope

Thousands cheer Barack Obama ahead of his Nelson Mandela lecture

Thousands cheer Barack Obama ahead of his Nelson Mandela lecture

"Because of the failure of governments‚ powerful elites‚ we now see much of the world return to an older‚ more dangerous‚ more brutal way of doing business".

He told the crowd that he is "not being alarmist [but] simply stating the facts". "If you start saying it is an elaborate hoax, where do we start?"

But, he added: "I can't find common ground if someone says climate change is not happening when nearly all the world's scientists say it is".

"The world is facing odd and uncertain times and it is at times like these that the example of Nelson Mandela is so important", Obama said.

"You should want to help people and not just yourself", Obama said.

Obama, however, suggested that on Mandela's 100th birthday, the world now "stands a crossroad" and that the world should respond to threats to global democracy appropriately.

He condemned leaders who engage in "strongman politics" and said leaders who push the "politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment" are moving 'at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago'.

"Things may go backwards for a while, but ultimately, right makes might", Obama said.

Barack Obama
Obama to make rare high-profile speech on Mandela's legacy

While some of Obama's comments appeared to be directed at Trump, the address in South Africa also touched upon the actions of autocratic leaders in countries across the world. "It used to be that if you caught them lying, they'd be like, oh, man - now they just keep on lying". "I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multiracial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal and are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights". "I think he'll speak about how Mandela changed the system here in South Africa, how he ended apartheid and gave hope for the poor and encouraged education", he said.

Beginning his speech at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg, South Africa, Obama said we are in "strange and uncertain times" with "head-spinning and disturbing headlines".

Machel drew several parallels between Mandela and Obama, portraying them both as modest men as "symbols of victory over adversity".

Obama arrived at the cavernous Wanderers Cricket Stadium to a standing ovation and a joyful performance of the South African anthem by the Soweto Gospel Choir.

He described Mandela as moral "true North" for the political arena not just in South Africa and the African continent but to the whole world.

Barack Obama has kept a notably low profile since departing the presidency in January 2017, only occasionally weighing in on political affairs to advocate for his most cherished initiatives, like the Affordable Care Act and the Iran deal, as President Trump attempts to dismantle his legacy.

Following his practice since leaving office, Obama did not mention Trump by name.

Mandela, who was released from prison in 1990 and became president four years later, died in 2013 at the age of 95.

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