Published: Thu, July 19, 2018
Life&Culture | By Sue Mclaughlin

Here's what Barack Obama says in Mandela address in South Africa

Here's what Barack Obama says in Mandela address in South Africa

Addressing 200 students at the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, the former U.S. leader said there were many "different ways in which you can effectuate change".

"Just as people spoke about the triumph of democracy in the 90s, now people are talking about the end of democracy".

John Stremlau, a professor of worldwide relations at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, said Obama described an attractive alternative to the spread of right-wing politics.

"Nelson Mandela was held captive for many years".

Imprisoned for almost three decades for his fight against state-sanctioned racial segregation, he was freed in 1990 and quickly set about working to unite the nation through forgiveness and reconciliation, becoming South Africa's first black president.

Ramaphosa also said there was no place for racism, tribalism and chauvinism in the South Africa of Nelson Mandela. Mandela won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

People queued outside the Wanderers stadium from early morning although the ceremonies eventually started late.

Last year, Obama told a large crowd near the Brandenburg Gate in Germany that in a modern, interconnected world, "we can't isolate ourselves".

On Tuesday afternoon Obama walked to the podium to cheers of "Yes we can" from the 15000-strong crowd to deliver the 16th annual Nelson Mandela lecture, kicking off celebrations marking Mandela's centennial birthday.

South Africans and others around the world marked the July 18, 1918 birth of Mandela with clinic openings, blanket handouts and other charitable acts.

"We now see much of the world threatening to return to an older, more risky more brutal way of doing business", Obama said. "The previous structures of injustice and exploitation never really went away", he said.

Nelson Mandela day What did Barack Obama say in 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture
GETTY Nelson Mandela day Obama seemed to take a dig at current US politicians during his speech

In addition to warning against the dangers of excessive nationalism, the former president expressed concern over the apparent rejection of objective truth among leaders at the moment.

He offered a work of hope amid the "strange and uncertain times we are in", putting the pressures on western democracies in perspective.

"The free press is under attack".

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Instead of commenting on politics, Obama's speech drew on broader themes and his admiration for Mandela, whom the US's first black president saw as a mentor.

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.

Barack Obama chats to businessman Patrice Motsepe.

Take a look at our five takeaways we learned during Obama's speech below.

Obama chose not to directly reference Trump, who is being criticized by many Tuesday after a controversial appearance with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He remarked on the progress that swept the globe during Mandela's lifetime - with greater prosperity and opportunity - but also that backlash that followed in recent years, in the wake of inequality and insecurity.

The duke and duchess of Sussex met friends and family of the anti-apartheid campaigner who died in 2013, including his grand-daughter Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela.

Media, Democrats Want Trump to Cancel Putin Meeting, or Include Others
Mr Trump said he respects Europe's leaders but says they have taken advantage of the U.S. on trade and defence spending. The United States has no extradition treaty with Moscow and can not compel Russian Federation to hand over citizens.


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