Obama Shades Trump Not Once, But Twice During Virtual Commencement Speeches
"If the world is going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” he cautioned.
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Obama was tapped to give two separate speeches during virtual graduation ceremonies for high school and HBCU graduates on Saturday. He never mentioned President Donald Trump by name, but the target of the commentary was obvious.
“More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge,” he said during Chase's "Show Me Your Walk: HBCU Edition" program. “If the world is going to get better, it’s going to be up to you.”
During his high school address later in the day with "Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020," he urged the teens to avoid acting like some of the leaders they see in the media. Obama also encouraged them to avoid seeking instant gratification...like children do.
“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy — that’s how little kids think,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still think that way — which is why things are so screwed up. I hope that instead, you decide to ground yourself in values that last, like honesty, hard work, responsibility, fairness, generosity, respect for others.”
The 44th president also highlighted how the virus has disproportionately affected Black people.
“A disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that Black communities have historically had to deal with in this country. We see it in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on our communities,” he said.
He connected the inequities highlighted by the virus to the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was killed in February following a conflict with a white father-son duo in rural Georgia.
“Just as we see it when a Black man goes for a jog and some folks feel like they can stop and question and shoot him if he doesn’t submit to their questioning,” Obama said. “Injustice like this isn’t new.”
Despite the world’s troubles, Obama encouraged the class of 2020 to forge alliances across demographic lines.
“Rather than say what’s in it for me or what’s in it for my community and to heck with everyone else, stand up for and join up with everyone who’s struggling,” Obama said. “Whether immigrants, refugees, the rural poor, the LGBTQ community, low-income workers of every background, women who so often are subject to their own discrimination and burdens and not getting equal pay for equal work, look out for folks whether they are white or Black or Asian or Latino or Native American.”
Trump has not addressed his predecessor’s comments, but White House adviser Peter Navarro had words for Obama, according to Politico.
“I'm glad Mr. Obama has a new job as Joe Biden's press secretary,” Navarro said on Sunday. “As far as I'm concerned, his administration was a kumbaya of incompetence in which we saw millions of manufacturing jobs go off to China.”
Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to speak at another virtual graduation event on June 6.