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#MandelaLecture: Obama condemns strongman politics & attacks on democracy

#MandelaLecture: Obama condemns strongman politics & attacks on democracy

Barack Obama has used his first high-profile speech since stepping down as US President to say the world should resist cynicism over the rise of strongmen, in an apparent reference to populist leaders who hold power in a number of countries.

"If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it is going to be hard for us to co-operate".

In a speech characterized by its impassioned defense of equality across race, gender, sexual orientation and national lines, Obama slammed the "small-minded" nature of "politics of fear, resentment, and retrenchment", without naming any specific politicians. "If you start saying it's an elaborate hoax, I don't know where to start".

Obama also will highlight one goal of his post-presidency, the promotion of young people as future leaders, Rhodes said.

Democracy demands that we're able also to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view. "Through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and most of all through his moral example, Mandela and the movement he led would come to embody universal aspirations", Obama said.

"Given the unusual and uncertain times that we are in, and they are odd, and they are uncertain...each day's news cycles bringing more head spinning and disturbing headlines".

Obama did not once say President Donald Trump's name during the address, which coincided with what would've been Mandela's 100th birthday.

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

"And if you doubt that, just ask the French football team that just won the World Cup - because not all these folks look like Gauls to me, they are French, they are French", he stressed with a smile. They just make stuff up.

The lecture, organised by The Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Motsepe Foundation, is part of the centenary celebration of Nelson Mandela's birth.

In his lecture titled, "Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World", Obama appealed to people around the world to honor human rights and other values under threat, as well as to keep alive the ideas that Mandela worked for-democracy, diversity and for all to gain access to good education.

Speaking to a crowd of 15,000 people at a Johannesburg cricket stadium to mark what would have been Nelson Mandela's 100th birthday, Obama recounted human progress over the last century, lauding the advancements that have been made on social, racial, and economic issues in America and overseas.

It was an implicit rebuke of President Trump's "America First" policies, delivered at a moment when Trump was scolding North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies for what he saw as inadequate defense spending - something Trump did again last week.

"His vision of a reconciled South Africa has become nearly non-existent within the (ruling) ANC at the moment", he said. After Obama became president he sent a copy of the photo to Mandela, who kept it in his office.