The former president spoke directly to black youth during his extensive livestreamed town hall.
“We have seen in the last several weeks, last few months the kind of epic changes and events in our country that are as profound as I’ve seen in my lifetime,” former president Barack Obama said. These remarks were made during his livestreamed town hall hosted by the Obama Foundation’s My Brothers Keeper Alliance.
This statement addresses the significant amount of protests that have been organized nationwide. Protestors have been marching as a direct response to the senseless killings by police and white Americans throughout the country including George Floyd, Ahmad Arberry, Sean Reed, Breonna Taylor and more. Obama shared condolences to Floyd’s family and the “disproportionate loss of life in communities of color,” reports the Hollywood Reporter. He added, “We grieve with you.”
During the virtual event, he also was sure to speak directly to young people. On this subject, he said seeing young people speak up makes him believe that “this country is going to get better.” He also said “part of what’s made me so hopeful is so many young people have been galvanized and activated and motivated” to create change.
Obama went further and added the following words of encouragement to black youth:
“I want to speak directly to the young men and women of color in this country, who…have witnessed too much violence and too much death, and too often, some of that violence has come from folks who were supposed to be serving and protecting you. I want you to know that you matter, that your lives matter, that your dreams matter. You’ve communicated a sense of urgency that is as power and as transformative as anything that I’ve seen in recent years.”
Obama also spoke on today’s protests and compared them to those of the past, specifically protests in the ’60s, per Vogue. On this topic he shared:
“You look at those protests, and that was a far more representative cross-section of America out on the streets peacefully protesting, who felt moved to do something because of the injustices that they had seen. That didn’t exist back in the 1960s, that kind of broad coalition: the fact that recent surveys have showed that despite some protests having been marred by the actions of a tiny minority that engaged in violence…despite all that, a majority of Americans still think those protests were justified. That wouldn’t have existed 30, 40, 50 years ago.”
The former president also touched on what he believes are the contributions of today’s youth: “There is a change in mindset that’s taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better…, ” he said. “That’s a direct result of the activities and organization and mobilization and engagement of so many young people across the country who put themselves out on the line to make a difference.”
Obama also pointed out that lawmakers must “review use of force policies” in order to commit to reform. “We need to be clear about where change is going to happen.” Additionally, he spoke about “voting versus protests” and “politics versus civil disobedience.” His views on this included, “We have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented.”