With ‘strongman politics’ on the rise, Obama affirms Mandela’s democratic vision

Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)

On the eve of Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday anniversary, 15,000 people—including South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel—were thrilled by a speech that not only paid tribute to Madiba’s memory but called South Africans to new hope and political conversion. Live-streamed before millions more, the speaker was former United States President Barack Obama.

Clearly buoyed by the multiracial crowd that frequently interrupted him with resounding applause, Mr. Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office in January 2017. With passion and reason, Mr. Obama noted that in the century since Mandela’s birth humanity had developed a new and inclusive vision, despite all attempts, past and present, to roll it back.

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“More and more peoples,” he said, “having witnessed the horrors of totalitarianism, the repeated mass slaughters of the 20th century, began to embrace a new vision of humanity, a new idea, one based not only on the principle of national self-determination but also on the principles of democracy and rule of law and civil rights and the inherent dignity of every single individual.”

Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office.

Despite terrible setbacks, he continued, these values have become integral to humanity’s sense of self from the local to the global level, not simply in the embrace of democracy as the norm but in economic terms: not simply market-based economies in an open global system but also principles of welfare and labor rights. This progress is also seen in the rejection of discrimination against persons based on race, religion and gender.

He noted, too, the problems humankind faces at this time. Discrimination is still real. Inequality persists. “A few dozen individuals,” he said, “control the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of humanity. That’s not an exaggeration; that’s a statistic.” Far-right business interests use economic clout to manipulate elections, drawing on populism to generate a “politics of fear and resentment” that seeks to undermine a century of democratic gains.

Though he never mentioned his successor by name, he noted, “Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained—the form of it—but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”

“Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up.”

Later he remarked: “Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up.

“We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet-driven fabrications; we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment; we see it in the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more.”

Everyone knew he was alluding to President Trump. For South Africans, it could also have applied to former President Jacob Zuma.

In contrast, Mr. Obama stated what he believed in: “I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision...a vision shared by [Mahatma] Gandhi, [Martin Luther] King and Abraham Lincoln...a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they’re endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.”

“We have to follow Madiba’s example of persistence and hope.”

Mandela’s vision, he concluded, offers a few “guideposts” for the current struggle for a more just and inclusive future.

First: “Those of us who believe in freedom and democracy...have to fight harder to reduce inequality and promote lasting economic opportunity for all.” Mandela reminds us, he said, “that some principles really are universal—and the most important one is...that we are bound together by a common humanity and that each individual has inherent dignity and worth.” He reminds us that “democracy is about more than just elections.”

Finally, Mr. Obama said, “We have to follow Madiba’s example of persistence and hope.”

As I watched Mr. Obama, the historian in me recalled another speech by a U.S. public figure in South Africa, way back in 1966: Robert F. Kennedy. To my delight, Mr. Obama alluded to that historical moment in his speech. It reminded me that the problems faced by South Africa mirror the problems of the United States. In Barack Obama, I sensed someone who understood this, too.

The vision of inclusion, tolerance and dialogue—what we in Africa call Ubuntu—that permeated Mr. Obama’s talk recalled to many of us Nelson Mandela at his best. In this diminished political era, we saw true statesmanship again, and the chilly South African Highveld winter was warmed by a bit of the old Madiba magic that we have missed for so long.

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Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

Preposterous! In South Africa today, whites are being targeted and killed. They are passing unfair laws. Whites are moving out, because the "Strongman" black racists of the ANC rule and they are not friendly to whites, in particular the white farmer. African Whites are moving to Russia and the Crimea and Australia. They have to do this to save their families.

Mandela was a black supremacist, that is the legacy we now see in 2018 South Africa. Thing is, when whites moved to South Africa, there were no blacks there. Blacks came later, after the whites pioneered it. Blacks came to live off the civilization the whites created out of nothing. Whites did not "steal" the land, nobody was there. I hate the lies of the people who worship Mandela and that ilk.

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

Most of your comments are decontextualised and sweeping generalisations. Some are plainly false. The murder rate of white farmers is indeed disturbingly high, but so is the overall murder rate, especially of Black people. Some white farmers have indeed emigrated, but most have not. Mandela was definitively not a black supremacist but passionately dedicated to a non-racial society. The ANC's traditional policy of non-racialism has indeed been undermined, but it has by no means been eliminated. It is widely accepted in the White community that there should be a more equitable distribution of land, even though there is debate and disagreement about how to bring this about.

Race relations in SA are generally good and are improving (see surveys by the SA Institute of Race Relations), especially since Zuma has been replaced by Ramaphosa as president. Many cross-racial friendships, business relationships and family relationships have formed. It is not unusual to see White families who have adopted orphaned Black babies or to see cross-racial dating and marriages. Much of this has been hugely facilitated and encouraged by Mandela's non-racial behaviour.

To live in SA is to be aware of these facts, even if -- like myself -- you do not support the ANC government.

J Cosgrove
1 month ago

I hope you are right about the future of South Africa. One of the highlights of our life was a trip to South Africa, Botswana and Victoria Falls. It is a place that should be on everyone's travel plans if they can afford it. Cape Town is one of the most interesting cities of the world. It is a shame it is so far away from us here in the U, 17 hour flight from eastern US.

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

It is indeed a wonderful (and pretty safe) tourist destination. I find it exciting to live here, despite many challenges and too much poverty.

Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

White peopke are LEAVING South Africa because the country under black racists is becoming unliveable for White people and too dangerous.

derrick: All your liberal drivel cannot refute the mathematics. Whites are leaving!!! Stop lying!

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

Some Whites are indeed leaving -- and for a whole variety of reasons, including perceptions that you list. Many people are coming into the country, including Whites, and indeed, many Whites who had previously left. The situation is far more nuanced than you suggest.

Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

Lies. False math. Lies!

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

You're quick to spew ad hominem vitriol -- That's ok. I can deal with your accusations because they are so far off the mark that they say more about you than me. But since you're so keen to appeal to math, try Hans Rosing's new book: Factfulness: Ten reasons we're wrong about the world. (https://www.amazon.com/Factfulness-Reasons-World-Things-Better/dp/12501…) His entire argumentation is math-based

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

I have been pushing Rosling's findings on this site for years. The Jesuits, their authors and liberal commenters are oblivious to the facts. They would rather push a poor and dysfunctional world due to capitalism. But it turns out it is just the opposite of what they report and advocate.

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

You're quick to spew ad hominem vitriol -- That's ok. I can deal with your accusations because they are so far off the mark that they say more about you than me. But since you're so keen to appeal to math, try Hans Rosing's new book: Factfulness: Ten reasons we're wrong about the world. (https://www.amazon.com/Factfulness-Reasons-World-Things-Better/dp/12501…) His entire argumentation is math-based

Phillip Stone
4 weeks 1 day ago

Derrick, whatever maths or politics or rhetoric conclude, the report from S Africa by Lauren Southern alarmed me particularly as here in Australia we have many refugees from there who left because they were Jews. It has enriched the Australian population immeasurably to welcome them amongst us.
With that reference, one might make the parallel with Jews in Germany after Mien Kampf was broadcast.
If I were a "white" in SA today I would be selling up and escaping. A significant presence amongst the Jews in Australia had family wise enough to get them out of there before the Shoah started.
I hope many do come over before the bloodbath begins, they will be far more welcome that the African muslim youths already running riot in Melbourne these days.

James MacGregor
1 month ago

"Abraham Lincoln...a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy"
That's a misunderstanding of American history. Lincoln was not an Abolitonist. he invaded the South to preserve the Union.

Stanley Kopacz
1 month ago

The rebels might disagree with you.
Lincoln opposed the westward spread of slavery to the territories and wanted it contained in the southern states. He was enough of an abolionist to provoke secession upon his election. He may have initiated military action immediately to preserve the union, but the southerners wanted slavery for its economic benefits. It was all about slavery for the southerners.

Jeffrey More
1 month ago

Fr. Egan's article is a masterpiece of inanity. How else explain a ludicrous statement like "the problems faced by South Africa mirror the problems of the United States"? The United States is not on the verge of turning into Zimbabwe; South Africa is, and a lot of people are going to die as a consequence. And how about this howler: "Later he [i.e., the Antichrist Obama]remarked: “Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth. People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up." Right. Remember "If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."?

Stanley Kopacz
1 month ago

With the duly elected cretin we now have as president, I'd venture that this country could turn into anything and among these things, Zimbabwe is not among the worst. This bozo couldn't even make a stupid casino successful which is a hole in the ground into which crazy people throw money. Clown doesn't even read. But he does know how to play suckers.

James Haraldson
1 month ago

Shame on you. How shallow of you to insult a man who has already done more to protect innocent, vulnerable lives around the world than any other leader in history. The paradoxes of Jesus implied, among other things, that right is right, no matter how flawed and sinful the champions of rightness, and wrong is wrong, no matter how pretentious the claims of “idealism” by the wrongdoers. If you don't know this, perhaps you are a fool who doesn't read, at least little outside the realm of popular group think propaganda.

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

To say that Trump "has already done more to protect innocent, vulnerable lives around the world than any other leader in history" must surely rank as a hyperbolic falsity of the same order that Trump repeatedly trots out.

The Church teaches constantly against the heresy of consequentialism -- that moral ends do not justify immoral means. Indeed, that is the very basis of its argument against abortion. Simply put: You cannot carry out abortion to achieve a good end. But you also cannot tell lies in order to prevent abortion.

Like the rest of us, Trump is a flawed person, and -- I agree -- to that extent deserving of forgiveness and compassion. Unlike the rest of us, however, he is entirely unrepentant, and constantly deploys every means possible, both moral and immoral, to acquire power and stay in power. Thus he pacifies the Christian right by tossing a few morally praiseworthy bones in their direction. But his entire presidency is built and sustained on a pack of lies, as is plain for anyone who has eyes to see. The breadth and depth of his deceitfulness is breathtaking (just as Zuma's was in SA). As Obama rightly pointed out: all politicians lie; but Trump just doubles down and supports his lies by more lies.

It seems that a minority of USA citizens (the Christian right) have made a pact with the devil, so to speak, in order to attain what they hope will be a good end. May God have mercy on us all.

J Cosgrove
1 month ago

I think that you do not understand Trump and misrepresent him. You are complaining rightly about Americans maybe misrepresenting South Africa while you do the same. Here is a video from 38 years ago. If anything Trump is a reluctant politician who could not find anyone else who could do what might be necessary. If he was after power, why so late in life?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAgJAxkALyc

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

Thanks for the interesting video clip. It does indeed show that some of Trump's views have not changed over time. And it does also indicate that he was not thinking about entering politics at that stage. However, it does not validate his views, nor justify his deceitfulness. I take no position on the details of his economic or international policies. But I do take issue with his deceitfulness, his rudeness, his arrogance, his "flirtation" with extreme rightwing (neo-nazi) groups, and the like. And he really does behave like Putin's lapdog, as if he is being blackmailed. Even as a non-US citizen, I worry where he may be leading the free world.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

It seems that your opinions are being formed by what we call the main stream media which is notoriously biased. Their methods are the same no matter which Republican is center stage. All are called extreme names. The most decent people are vilified. The current selection for the Supreme Court is now one of the most hated persons in the country by the liberals even though he is an exemplary person. It is what the press does. Most Americans recognize this but outside the US most don't.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

To call Trump Putin's lap dog is a serious misreading of what is going on. If anything Trump is doing the opposite of what Putin wants. It was Hillary Clinton who oversaw contacts with Russia during the election campaign not Trump. To explain her loss she blamed it on Russia and apparently the FBI went along with this charade. That is the most distasteful episode in American history and is slowly coming out. The Helsinki summit proved that Trump was not under the control of Putin.

Steve Magnotta
4 weeks 1 day ago

Well said, Derrick. It's appreciated. Who knew that astuteness, clarity, and a devotion to reality would become such preciously rare commodities.
We have a major problem with so many jumping through any hoop to hold on to rigid, ill-considered, and baseless notions in the face of truth and stark reality. As much a cause for worry as trump and his shennanigans. They are of a piece, and a clear indication that the US and the world is facing some pretty serious trouble.

James Haraldson
3 weeks ago

Derrick Kourie: What a silly interpretation of historical reality. Neo-Nazis are the Christian groups who preach moral relativism, socialism, and a functional utilitarian interpretation of human worth and the human individual. In other words, all the political progressives who write for America and those who come here to express leftist views. Thank God for an anti-Nazi like Trump in the White House.

Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

Hillary was too pro-war. Trump is keeping peace, and therefore saving lives. Simple math.

James Haraldson
3 weeks 2 days ago

You've made a pact with the devil to willingly believe such anti-Christian propaganda. A lot of accusations without a single substantiation. And name one consequentialist "immoral" means that Trump has implemented to defund the abortion industry while severing Obama's policy of demanding foreign governments liberalize their abortion laws in order to receive American aid, cold-bloodedly, even after natural disasters.

Stanley Kopacz
1 month ago

Well, I hope you get your big ban on abortion. It may never be banned in the United States because there won't be a United States to be banned in because of the immature, incompetent blowhard idiot you gave the nuclear codes.. Watch what you wish for. The alcohol prohibitionists got what they wanted, the practical results being the opposite of what they expected. That amendment was cancelled and we haven't heard from prohibitionists since.

J Cosgrove
1 month ago

Thank you for your insight and analysis. Maybe prohibition is again in our future since Trump doesn't drink He also doesn't smoke or use drugs. So maybe smoke free and drug free futures are ahead of us too..

By the way I have long said that the United States is over. But I said that long before Trump arrived on the scene. He is a symptom, not the cause. It is just a matter of the end game.

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

South Africa is not on the verge of turning into Zimbabwe. That is fake news. However, there is one strong parallel with the USA: the SA leadership had been captured by non-government interests. This is patently the case in the US as well. In SA, it took a long time for the partisan electorate to acknowledge the lies and corruption of their leader, Zuma. Mercifully, we have moved past that and are cleaning up the mess. I hope you can do the same in the US.

Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

The South African Rand is a falling currency. SA is unstable. Sorry, the math doesn’t lie. Look at the chart.

Derrick Kourie
1 month ago

Your analysis is just too simplistic to be taken seriously. Your argument is as valid as the argument that says: "The US debt is rising. The US is unstable. Sorry, the math doesn't lie."

Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

That’s very clever Derrick. Two wrongs don’t make a right however. The USA has the luxury of being the world’s reserve currency, something the Rand does not. Duh. Surely you know about hyperinflation in black supremacist anti-white racist Zimbabwe. SA is following the same path, only a fool or a liberal in denial of his failures would invest in the Rand. Surely, you are hedging, if you have any money or a family /children to protect and raise as Christians.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

Who are these non government interest? The people, small business and common person support Trump? The press, academia, entertainment, most big business are all solidly for the Democrats. Trump while very crude has been the common person's champion. He also supports traditional religion. But look who is against him. The sides being formed are because the elites dominate the information sources. Trump definitely defies norms of behavior but he has a way of getting what is right done.

T. Saenz
1 month ago

It's almost funny to read a piece by someone who claims to be a member of the Society of Jesus, much less a Catholic, who looks up to Obama. You mean the Obama who strongarmed the University of Notre Dame into removing a crucifix so it would not be in the picture with him when he spoke there? If you have to kick Christ out of the picture, kick me out, too.

Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

Agreed. It’s both ridiculous and pathetic. The Little Sisters of the Poor had to SUE Obama and his ilk all the way to the SCOTUS to fight for Jesus’ and Catholic values. Obama is no friend of Jesus Christ or his Holy Church.

T. Saenz
4 weeks ago

Sometimes I feel like we need a new Catholic church, rooted in Messiah and the experiences He gave to the apostles but divested of the dinosaurs and dragons that contort and convolute our faith and our love and our hope. It's like the church leadership and many of the followers have been hijacked by the World. It's quite demoralizing at times.

James Haraldson
1 month ago

Really? We have to share the author’s infatuation with a man whose only legislative accomplishment as a state senator in Illinois was to cosponsor a bill criminalizing the action of anyone who would give first aid to a baby who survived an abortion? How bankrupt must a mind and soul be to look to Obama as a source of wisdom?

J Cosgrove
1 month ago

See youtube video I linked to above, It is an interview with Trump just before the 1980 elections. See what he has to say about politicians, especially ones with big smiles.

Chuck Kotlarz
1 month ago

The Natives Land Act of 1913 gave 87% of South African land to Europeans, about 20% of the population. Following the act and other legislation, miner wages fell, then stagnated and in 1961 were less than those of 1911. South Africa became the world's most unequal country over that period. Between 1904 and 1926 blacks were banned from skilled jobs in the economy and the ban lasted until the 1980s. By 1940, all blacks had been disenfranchised.

The above was excerpted from “Why Nations Fail” by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson.

Chuck Kotlarz
1 month ago

Ubuntu is inscribed into the Boston Celtics 2007-2008 NBA championship rings.

Elaine Boyle
1 month ago

Mandela was a Marxist, and a black racist. Not sure what he has to to with Jesus, God, or Catholicism. Nothing at all actually. Modern SA is a racist, crime-ridden failure with a negative trend/trajectory. Mandela totally failed, unless you like black supremacist atheistic government (ANC).

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

From what I understand and I am from far away, Mandela was convinced by some of his black allies to moderate his views and form a coequal government. Because of the numbers, the blacks could always change this. We met white people who knew Mandela intimately when we were in South Africa who told us this. But once Mandela died all bets were off. Emotions are always stronger than reason and blacks are economically much worse off than whites and believe they will become better off by just taking.

J Cosgrove
4 weeks 1 day ago

I didn't realize this till I read it here. The Jesuits were behind Mugabe and facilitated his takeover of Zimbabwe. There was an article about this a few months ago in America.

Drew Hodge
4 weeks 1 day ago

Thank you Anthony Egan, for an insightful article. Whatever their professed religious beliefs, Mandela and Obama are role models for politicians and ordinary citizens of every country that calls itself democratic.

Steve Magnotta
4 weeks 1 day ago

Amen, Drew.

Stanley Kopacz
4 weeks 1 day ago

Obama is obviously more human than trump. You can tell by his sense of humor. It is broad and self-deprecating. trump only smiles when he's verbally slitting someone's throat. I would be comfortable meeting Obama. trump is the sort I avoid. That being said, both parties are corrupted by money and Obama was part of that system. Only an instant runoff vote will liberate us. I can't understand why anyone of any political stripe would object to that. Unless, of course, they benefit financially from the status quo.

Toby Gillis
4 weeks 1 day ago

" “Unfortunately, too much of politics today seems to reject the very concept of objective truth.People just make stuff up. They just make stuff up.

“We see it in state-sponsored propaganda; we see it in internet-driven fabrications; we see it in the blurring of lines between news and entertainment; we see it in the utter loss of shame among political leaders where they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and they lie some more.”
The man hasn't changed at all. all he can do is talk about himself........

wheels happy
4 weeks 1 day ago

Thanks for sharing.I found a lot of interesting information here. A really good post, very thankful and hopeful that you will write many more posts like this one.
- happy wheels

Jay Zamberlin
4 weeks 1 day ago

delete

Jay Zamberlin
4 weeks 1 day ago

Libya, oh how we who actually care about human rights and real human progress weep for you. You, brought low - your leader assassinated by neo-lib globalists served by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barrack Hussein Obama. Now we literally have black slave markets in what was, prior to this heinous rape of a country, the most prosperous of African Nations, while at the same time, white South African farmers are being murdered and their land taken, because, well, they're white, and this at the encouragement of the South African President. Cyril Ramaphosa, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5450559/South-African-president… Could there be a WORSE example of human progress parading itself as multiculturalism. Shameful indeed is the history of South Africa, but the present does not much to eclipse and replace that shame, quite the opposite, sad to say. Nice we have white libs co-signing and virtue signaling, what do you expect, that is what they ALWAYS DO.

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