From politics to Trump and humour, a glimpse of Obama’s annual Nelson Mandela lecture in South Africa

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Mandela’s widow Graca Machel introduced Obama for the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture.

Former US president Barack Obama’s Tuesday speech in South Africa is his highest-profile speech since leaving office.

Obama urged people around the globe to respect human rights and other values that now are facing threat.

The address marked the 100th anniversary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s birth where he made clear the world is at a crossroads between Mandela’s vision of tolerance and current “disturbed” times.

Obama’s speech on Tuesday in South Africa rallied people to keep alive the ideas that Mandela worked for including democracy, diversity and good education for all.

An estimated 14,000 people gathered at a cricket stadium for the speech.

South Africa’s president introduced former US President Barack Obama as the rare person who dreamed about being like Nelson Mandela and achieving that dream.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa talks to former US president Barack Obama at the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture | REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

President Cyril Ramaphosa, however, also poked fun at Obama, saying he cannot dance as well as Mandela could dance.

Ramaphosa added that in Obama, “We have found a kindred spirit. We have found a brother.”

Obama opened his speech in South Africa by saying that “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines”.

POLITICS

Former US president Barack Obama gave a spirited defense of equality and tolerance, saying that people who put others down are “small-minded.”

Obama opened his speech in South Africa by saying that “each day’s news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines”.

Barack Obama said politicians pushing “politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment” are on the move “at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago”.

The struggle for basic justice is never truly finished.

– Barack Obama in South Africa

Obama took aim at the “utter loss of shame among political leaders when they’re caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more”.

Obama’s annual lecture marking the centenary of the anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela’s birth | REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Obama said these days “people just make stuff up” in politics and no longer show embarrassment when being caught out.

He warned that the denial of facts could be the undoing of democracy.

We’ve been through darker times. We’ve been through lower valleys.

– Obama reminded the audience of thousands

DELIVERING AN ELOQUENT REBUKE TO TRUMP

Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump by name, Barack Obama on Tuesday took aim at “strongman politics”.

Those in power seek to undermine every institution… that gives democracy meaning. I am not being alarmist, I am simply stating the facts. Look around.

– Barack Obama

Obama’s speech to a cheering crowd of thousands in South Africa countered many of Trump’s policies, rallying people around the world to keep alive the ideas that Mandela worked for including democracy, diversity and tolerance.

Crowds listen as former US president Barack Obama delivers the 16th Nelson Mandela annual lecture | REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

John Stremlau, professor of international relations at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, called the timing auspicious as the commitments that defined Mandela’s life are “under assault” in the US and elsewhere.

Just by standing on the stage honoring Nelson Mandela, Obama is delivering an eloquent rebuke to Trump. Yesterday we had Trump and Putin standing together, now we are seeing the opposing team: Obama and Mandela.

– John Stremlau said

OBAMA, AFRICA AND MANDELA

This was Obama’s first visit to Africa since leaving office in early 2017.

He stopped earlier this week in Kenya, where he visited the rural birthplace of his late father.

When Obama was a US senator he had his picture taken with Mandela.

After Obama became president he sent a copy of the photo to Mandela, who kept it in his office. Obama also made a point of visiting Mandela’s prison cell and gave a moving eulogy at Mandela’s memorial service in 2013, saying the South African leader’s life had inspired him.

(With inputs from Associated Press)

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