Voice Of Wisdom — Barack Obama

The people living in the United States have no leader, the country is a rudderless ship adrift in a very stormy sea.  But one man stands out, his words are wise and offer real solutions, and today I would like to share with you those words, the words of a true leader, President Barack Obama …


How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

Barack Obama

Barack-Obama

As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change.

Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.

First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.

On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause. I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back. So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.

Second, I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

Moreover, it’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

It’s mayors and county executives that appoint most police chiefs and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with police unions. It’s district attorneys and state’s attorneys that decide whether or not to investigate and ultimately charge those involved in police misconduct. Those are all elected positions. In some places, police review boards with the power to monitor police conduct are elected as well. Unfortunately, voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes.

So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.

Finally, the more specific we can make demands for criminal justice and police reform, the harder it will be for elected officials to just offer lip service to the cause and then fall back into business as usual once protests have gone away. The content of that reform agenda will be different for various communities. A big city may need one set of reforms; a rural community may need another. Some agencies will require wholesale rehabilitation; others should make minor improvements. Every law enforcement agency should have clear policies, including an independent body that conducts investigations of alleged misconduct. Tailoring reforms for each community will require local activists and organizations to do their research and educate fellow citizens in their community on what strategies work best.

But as a starting point, here’s a report and toolkit developed by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and based on the work of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing that I formed when I was in the White House. And if you’re interested in taking concrete action, we’ve also created a dedicated site at the Obama Foundation to aggregate and direct you to useful resources and organizations who’ve been fighting the good fight at the local and national levels for years.

I recognize that these past few months have been hard and dispiriting — that the fear, sorrow, uncertainty, and hardship of a pandemic have been compounded by tragic reminders that prejudice and inequality still shape so much of American life. But watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful. If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained, and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.

Let’s get to work.

64 thoughts on “Voice Of Wisdom — Barack Obama

  1. Pingback: Voice Of Wisdom — Barack Obama — Filosofa’s Word (reblog…) | ShiraDest: toward The Four Freedoms for All Human Beings

      • Lately, between the COVID pandemic, police brutality and the rioting, I find myself wishing all the time that I could wake up in a world before all this started. Even though I realize that safety, at any time in our human history, is an illusion. Still, if we had a real leader at the helm, instead of Chaos Troll, things would be better.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I think we all feel like that. Sigh. These are tough times in so many ways, and as you say, it would be so much better if we had a leader, if we could trust our government. Frankly, I don’t believe a word that comes out of Trump’s mouth, or anyone else at the federal level.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Barack, he was definitely the best president of the US in at least the last 70 years. That’s how old I am, and I have seen them come and go. But I do not agree with him on this one. Shoot me if you want, but I don’t think he is being realistic in his assessment of the times. Why? Because he is an idealist, very much like myself. If you had ideal people to vote for, you “might” be able to elect enough of them to actually create change. But those people are SELDOM on the slate, and if they are on the slate, they are usually not politically astute to be able to gather enough votes to win. But, even if one or two should win a seat or a position, they are overrun by the old boys’ network whose job is to keep things the way they are, by force, by blackmail, or just by taking away their power and riding roughshod over the good guys. This is the reality of the situation. UNTIL YOU CHANGE THE WAY YOUR REPUBLIC/DEMOCRACY WORKS, YOU HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CHANCE OF CREATING CHANGE! (And yes, the very same thing is true of every democracy in the world, including in my home country, Canada.)
    I don’t know if I can put my understanding into words, but as long as you allow your politicians to have unlimited and extremely huge election budgets, the people who might be able to provide the government you need will never be able to make a presidential run, or even a run at Congress. Look at Bloomburg, and I think Sanders, who had the money to win on their own dimes. Neither were not allowed to gain footholds against the party faithful.
    What it takes to run for state or local offices, I do not know. Obama suggests these are the positions you need to fill to make improvements in laws and in getting those laws properly carried out, but even could you get that far, the systemic racism is so embedded in legal arenas that it cannot be flushed out except by throwing all currents governers (and probably even governors) and law officials out on their asses. DO NOT EVER AGAIN ELECT A WHITE MALE TO ANY POSITION UNTIL THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO RACIST OR BIGOTED PEOPLE LEFT IN POWER.
    The only way to succeed in getting rid of white racists is to put them under the control of people of colour. Sounds crazy, right? That is exactly what the racist apartheid-practising whites thought would happen in South Africa in 1994, because that is what they would have done had the roles been reversed. But what actually happened? Whites are enjoying an even better standard of living under Black rule than they were during apartheid. The same thing will most likely be true in the USA should whites lose their stronghold on most levels of American governments. Their basic cultures are completely different.
    Have I made my point? Probably not. But until you take power away from whites and give it to people of colour, true change cannot be made. 350 years of white rule is not about to lay down their power willingly. They really believe they are the only ones who know how to rule the world. The falsity in that is that they can’t even rule themselves, forget about others!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You have made your point, and I agree with much of what you say. However … easier said than done. I agree that money should be taken completely out of politics, which is why I’ve often said Citizens United was one of the worst decisions made in the history of the Supreme Court. It should be overturned, but just like the 2nd Amendment, it is entrenched now and uprooting it will take … I don’t know what it would take. The corporations with the most money now run this country. As I said, I largely agree with you, but … I don’t know how to bring about the changes you propose. Yes, we need those changes, but … how? I often say one thing or another is what needs to happen, but I have no realistic plan for how to make it happen. This is no longer a government “by the people, for the people, and of the people”, but rather a government by/for/of the wealthy. I suspect that the only way significant change is going to come will involve massive violence and significant loss of life … not the rich people’s lives, but our own. Sigh.

      Like

      • It will take time, and a lot of effort, but the Democratic Party has to be convinced running white candidates is antithetical to the needs of the party, and the people.
        Intelligent people will vote for black and coloured candidates, and so will most people of colour. White republican voters will still vote white, but they can only take so many seats or offices without help. They will lose the power they currently have, and not be able to winit back.
        White politicians were not born to rule, no one was. But that is what has been real for many centuries. The time to start the changes is now!

        Liked by 1 person

        • The thing is, though, in my eyes … it shouldn’t matter what the colour of a candidate’s skin, but rather what is in his heart, what he believes and how willing he is to fight for equality, for justice, for humanitarian causes. To hell with skin colour! There are, whether you believe it or not, white people who are good people, who don’t judge by skin colour, religion, gender identity, or any of the other bullshit. Just as there are black candidates with the exact same values and traits. I thought the goal was to rise above bigotry, not to simply change the demographics. Sigh. I think that perhaps I have outlived my usefulness in this world, for I cannot understand humans at all anymore.

          Like

          • We all know there are good white people. But when it comes to getting rid of racism, it cannot happen as long as people of colour are being governed by the very people who step on them. All I am asking is you take a look at history, and try to understand how racism works, and how it fails. The system is not broken, but fixed! Fixed against people of colour and even poor whites. Please put aside your passion, Jill. And your emotions. Look at racism in the clear light of day. It cannot be dismantled as long as whites hold the balance of power.
            But, maybe I should have said elect no Repuglycan whites, or wealthy white Democraps.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Ahhhh … but if you ask me to put my passion aside, then you ask me to be somebody other than who I am, yes? My passion is part of who I am, take it or leave it. If it weren’t so, I would likely still be knitting scarves rather than ranting about injustices, both social and political. I cannot solve all the problems of the world, and neither can you, my friend. But I know that replacing one evil with another. Sigh. LuL

              Like

      • I think in hindsight, the Obama administration is going to be viewed as a modern day Camelot, much like the Kennedy administration back in the 60s. It’s scary to realise that a time I still remember is now almost 60 years in the past. :/

        Liked by 1 person

        • I very much think you are right. In fact, I saw parallels even when he was still in office. Nary a scandal during the entire 8 years, a wife and children who were well-spoken and graceful. And a man who promoted peace and goodwill. Did he make mistakes? Sure, but who doesn’t? The job doesn’t come with a magic wand that shows all the information needed to make wise decisions. But, compared to his predecessor and to the one who came after, he was darn near perfect!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this, Jill. It was such a pleasure to read. Bolstered my spirits—for a while—until the unpresident left his bunker, ordered the cavalry to charge peaceful demonstrators, and took his photo-op with Bible in hand, no less.
    Meanwhile, I saw one brief scene and no discussion of Biden’s marching with demonstrators in Wilmington and meeting with mayors. ( I may be repeating myself from a comment on a previous post.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Reading Obama’s words was like a breath of fresh air after being in a mausoleum! Sigh. Yes, Trump’s photo op yesterday was abominable, especially given that police attacked peaceful protesters with tear gas and rubber bullets just to clear a path for the jerk to get his photo op. Grrrrrrrrrrrrr. Biden is what we need in a leader, just as Obama was. Yet some 40% of the people in this nation prefer a clown over a leader. It makes me wonder if there is hope for this nation at all.

      Like

  4. “But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.”
    ~ Very important to remember when voting for our state and local officials.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Jill, well written, compassionate and condemning where needed. His grocery store example is excellent and pertinent. Those choosing to commit violence are not only harming the message, they are punishing the wrong people. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Pingback: Voice Of Wisdom — Barack Obama — Filosofa’s Word (A Re-Blog) – suziland too or obsolete childhood

    • Thank you so much, Suze!!! I miss him more with each passing day. Every night I go to sleep hoping to wake in the morning and find this has all been a terrible nightmare, and that Obama is still president. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. If only we had an actual current president of the United States who could deliver such a classy and inclusive statement. Boy I sure miss him. I’m thinking President Obama would give our little project two thumbs up Jill!!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s