Obama Calls for Love to Combat Hate in First Africa Visit Post-Presidency

In a speech honoring the late activist Nelson Mandela, former President Barack Obama called today’s times “strange and uncertain.”

Obama spoke in South Africa on Tuesday morning at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. Obama’s speech kicks off the first of many events the Nelson Mandela Foundation has planned to honor Mandela’s 100th birthday.

In his introduction, Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, called Obama one of the “finest global leaders of the 21st century” and a “youthful symbol of transformative leadership.”

“Given the strange and uncertain times we are in — and they are strange, and they are uncertain — with each day’s news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines, I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective,” Obama told the crowd of more than 15,000.


On the day before Mandela’s centennial, Obama began his lecture at the activist’s birth year and place. He continued by encouraging the audience to remember his ideals today, addressing Mandela by his nickname, Madiba.

“Madiba reminds us that: ‘No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.'”

The former president quoted the same words from Mandela after racially charged attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer.

Obama’s speech marked his first visit to Africa since the end of his presidency. He visited Kenya on Monday to participate in the grand opening of a fitness center in Kogelo, his father’s birthplace.

“I believe we have no choice but to move forward,” Obama said. “Madiba shows those of us who believe in freedom in democracy, we’re going to have to fight harder to reduce inequality and promote lasting economic opportunity for all people.”

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