Obama urges 2020 graduates to vote for change in November
Speaking in virtual commencement address on YouTube, Obama called on young Americans to play their part in democracy “even it all seems broken.”Updated: Jun 08, 2020 06:21 IST
Former President Barack Obama urged Class of 2020 graduates to vote for change, saying protests alone won’t end discrimination and injustice that have sparked almost two weeks of nationwide demonstrations.
Speaking in virtual commencement address on YouTube, Obama called on young Americans to play their part in democracy “even it all seems broken.”
“I’ve noticed that there have been some debates among young people about how useful voting is compared to direct action and civil disobedience in ending discrimination in our society,” he said. “The fact is that we don’t have to choose, we need both.”
Obama has shed the customary restraint of former presidents and criticized the Trump administration’s response during the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, he told graduates of historically black colleges that the outbreak shows that many of those in the government “aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
He also wrote lengthy posts on Medium and Instagram about the recent wave of protests against police brutality, and with a similar call to action.
The coronavirus pandemic “just brought into focus problems that have been growing for a very long time,” Obama said Sunday, citing economic inequality, lack of basic health care, bigotry and political polarization.
Decades of Anguish
Recent protests “speak to decades worth of anguish and frustration over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system,” Obama said.
Aspirations for change have to be translated into laws and institutional practices at every level of government, including those “that don’t get as much attention as a presidential race,” he said.
Michelle Obama struck a similar tone at the virtual graduation, which featured A-list artists such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and K-pop group BTS.
“If you’re spending a lot of time just hashtagging and posting right now, that’s useful, especially during a pandemic,” the former first lady said. “But it’s only a beginning. Go further. Send all your friends a link to register to vote.”