Former President Barack Obama addressed graduates at historically black colleges and universities on Saturday and urged them to “seize the initiative” during a time that the nation’s leaders have lacked the leadership to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” Mr. Obama said in an address streamed online, according to The New York Times. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
Obama has not made many public remarks during the coronavirus pandemic, but today he decided to criticize the Trump administration for undermining the threat. He told the audience of graduates: “If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you.”
Obama told the graduates, most of whom are black, that the coronavirus “just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country.”
Obama also addressed the death of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while jogging back in February.
The disparities are not just in public health, but also “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,” he said.
Obama then continued to encourage the graduates to take precautions and understand that health comes first.
“It doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick,” he said, later adding that, “our society and democracy only works when we think not just about ourselves, but about each other.”
Take a look at Obama’s speech below: