In case you missed Obama’s keynote speech

Ebonne Gabhart

The Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture held in Johannesburg, South Africa, brought to its audience the theme, “Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World.” The keynote speech was delivered by former President Barack Obama.

Political divisions always exist. Currently, there is widespread confusion about what the heart of politics is. This confusion is reinforced and construed in America’s social media and political culture. Obama’s lecture is an overview of where the world has been and where it is today. His speech is a reminder to those who need it that the political climate is not the way it has always been and is not the way it has to be.

Topics discussed in this lecture are the heart of political science. Encapsulating the world that existed not too long ago, Obama speaks on themes of colonial rule, exploitation of land and an indifference for humanity. He juxtaposed these to insinuate the magnitude of Mandela’s accomplishments, saying, “There was no reason to believe that a young black boy at this time, in this place, could in any way alter history.” He ponders how crazy and simultaneously inspiring it is that such drastic shifts in values were made during Mandela’s lifetime and following years.

Obama goes on to state facts about our world: “We have to start by admitting that whatever laws may have existed on the books, whatever wonderful pronouncements existed in constitutions, whatever nice words were spoken during these last several decades at international conferences or in the halls of the United Nations, the previous structures of privilege and power and injustice and exploitation never completely went away. ”

He defines and explains in what ways injustices have continued on today: “Decisions are also made without reference to notions of human solidarity – or a ground-level understanding of the consequences that will be felt by particular people in particular communities by the decisions that are made.”

He connects this (not independently) to the political climate we see today: “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.”

Obama described the time we are in as a crossroad in which we have two very different visions before us, and the question remains: which vision is yours? And are you following it blindly or do you stand defiantly behind it? We are the ones who must hold our representatives responsible; if we are noticing injustices instilled in our government, we must speak up.