Barack Obama: His speech reminds us what we’ve lost


To see the world’s most powerful man in the world stand up and lie, bully and perhaps worse still, support extreme bigotry, has almost become the norm when we think of Donald Trump. Just when you think he cannot shock you any more, he’ll shock you. His disregard for progressive world leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, beggars’ belief.

His fawning over powerful, often brutal megalomaniacs such President Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin is nauseating. But again the outrageous has sadly become the norm. We are told this is the new politics and we’d better get used to it.

And then, almost out of nowhere we here a voice and narrative that is clearly heart warming, but also tinged with sadness, because it reminds us what we’ve lost.

Former US president Barack Obama spoke in South Africa on the anniversary of what would be the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela. He spoke of the present global leadership, which he catogorised as, ‘strong man leadership’; a leadership that is barely democratic, crushes the free press, demonises the most vulnerable, and has a nationalist strain that simmers with racism.

He used the story of Mandela as a global narrative of hope; the forces of good, against those who would have us tear each other apart.

It was vintage Obama, the master story teller who is able to inform, inspire and help us believe we can be better.

In these dark days of ‘strong man politics’ our nations desperately need leaders who are imbued with humility, compassion and understanding. These qualities are the real strengths that the ‘strong men’ are incapable of seeing.

Simon Woolley