Our forever President Barack Obama addressed the nation during a virtual town hall event on Wednesday afternoon to offer some words of reassurance as the nation protests race-based police violence. His calm, measured tone was the type of presidential response that’s been missing from a government that has vilified and threatened protesters with the type of police violence that got us all here in the first place.
Billed as “a conversation with President Obama: Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence,” Obama was taking part in a virtual town hall that was held by his own My Brother’s Keeper initiative he launched in 2014 “to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.”
He made it clear from the start that he was talking to the young people who have been on the front line of the nationwide protests against police violence that began forming after the homicide of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. Obama encouraged them to use this moment for “an opportunity for people to be awakened” and made sure to tell those of color that their lives mattered, too.
He mentioned the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Floyd before stressing that there were “too many others to mention” and said that their families were in the prayers of him and Michelle Obama.
Ever the optimist, Obama segued to what he described as silver linings to the current tumultuous state; a state he acknowledged is having a “disparate” on communities in addition to being “still in the throes of a pandemic.”
Painting a contrast between the current wave of protesters versus those in the 1960s, Obama said that most Americans today think the protests over the recent police violence are justified. “That wasn’t true back then,” he said while pointing to that fact as proof that real change has been made.
That change was “a direct result of activities and mobilizing and engagement of so many young people in America,” he said before continuing later. “I just have to say ‘thank you’ to them for helping to bring about this moment.”
But he also cautioned them against being complacent with small wins and to keep the big picture in mind.
“Make sure you follow through,” he said. “Let’s use this to finally have an impact.”
Watch Obama’s full speech below and others speak at the “conversation with President Obama: Reimagining Policing in the Wake of Continued Police Violence.”