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Thursday, April 25 2024

You have the power to make things better: Obama to protesters

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Washington: Former US President Barack Obama encouraged young protesters demonstrating violence and racism in the country to follow through with practical solutions for change, saying “you have the power to make things better”.

In a virtual town hall on Wednesday hosted by his Obama Foundation, the first African-American US President avoided criticizing his successor Donald Trump’s management of the protests and instead focused on sending a message of hope to young people outraged by the death of George Floyd and other African-Americans who have lost their lives as a result of police brutality in recent years, reports Efe news.

“I hope that you also feel help hopeful, even as you may feel angry, because you have the power to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that’s got to change. You’ve communicated a sense of urgency that is as powerful and as transformative as anything that I’ve seen in recent years,” Obama said.

“I just have to say thank you to them and for helping to bring about this moment,” he added.

The former President asked them to continue pressing to “make sure that we now follow through” with laws and practical solutions for change, because what usually happens with protests is that “at some point attention moves away, at some point protests start to dwindle in size”.

Obama recalled that “historically so much of the progress that we’ve made in our society has been because of young people”, and that Martin Luther King Jr, Cesar Chavez and Malcolm X were young when they took to the streets, just as the leaders of the feminist movement and the LGBT rights community have been.

“I want you to know that you matter. I want you to know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter,” he said.

“When I go home and I look at the faces of my daughters, Sasha and Malia, and I look at my nephews and nieces, I see limitless potential that deserves to flourish and thrive. You should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what’s going to happen when you walk to the store or go for a jog or are driving down the street or looking at some birds in a park,” he added.

“When sometimes I feel despair, I just see what’s happening with young people all across the country and the talent and the voice and the sophistication that they’re displaying, and it makes me feel optimistic. It makes me feel as if this country is going to get better.”

He did not entirely agree with the comparisons of the current protests with the riots after the murder of King in 1968, because “there is something different here” in the current movement.

“You look at (these) protests and that (is) a far more representative cross-section of America out on the streets peacefully protesting, and 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,” Obama said.

The former President added that “despite some protests having then been marked by the actions of some, a tiny minority that engaged in violence… despite all that a majority of Americans still think those protests were justified,” something that “wouldn’t have existed 30, 40, 50 years ago”.

“There is a change in mindset that’s taking place, a greater recognition that we can do better,” he said.

He also thanked those police officers who have expressed their solidarity with peaceful protesters, as “change is going to require everybody’s participation.”

The protests, which began in response to Floyd’s death while in police custody on May 25, have spread to more than 300 US cities and towns.

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