Obama on Trump, challenges to democracy – full speech

checking to see if you’re awake please have a seat everybody and it’s good to be home beans I tried to explain to somebody as we’re flying in that’s corn that’s beans are my agricultural knowledge a bunch of good friends here today including somebody who I served with who is one of the finest senators in the country and we’re lucky to have them you’re Senator Dick Durbin is here I also noticed by the way of former governor I want to thank present Colleen and everybody at the U of I system for making it possible for me to be here today I am deeply honored at the Paul Douglas being given to me he is somebody who set the path for so much outstanding Public Service here in LA I want to start by addressing the elephant in the room I know people are still wondering why I didn’t speak at the 2017 commencement the student body president sent a very thoughtful invitation students made a spiffy video and when I decline I hear there was speculation that I was boycotting campus until I Romeo’s Pizza reopen so I want to be clear I did not take sides and that late night food debate the truth is after 8 years in the White House I need to spend some time one-on-one with Michelle if I wanted to stay married and she says hello by the way I also want to spend some quality time with my daughters who were on their way out the door and I should add by the way now that I have a daughter in college I can tell all the students here your parents suffer they cry privately it is brutal so please call send a text we need to hear from you just a little something and Truth was I was also in a wise American tradition ex-presidents gracefully exiting the political stage and making room for new voices in the new ideas and we have our first President George Washington thanks for setting that example after he led the colonies to Victory as General Washington there was no Constitution there were no Democratic Norms that guided what he should or could do and he could have made himself all-powerful he could have made himself potentially president in the study resigned as commander-in-chief and move back to the country estate and 6 years later he was elected president he resigned again and rode off into the sunset The Point Washington made the point that is essential to American democracy is that in government of and by and for the people there should be no permanent ruling class there only citizens who through their elected and temper free Representatives determine our course and determine our character as citizens of the United States need to determine just who it is that we are just what it is that we stand for in as a fellow citizen not as next president but is a fellow citizen I’m here to deliver a simple message and that is that you need to vote because our democracy depends on that some of you may think I’m exaggerating when I say this November’s elections are more important than any remember my lifetime I know politicians say that all the time I glanced at the recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different the stakes really are higher the consequences of any of us sitting on the side are more dire and it’s not as if we haven’t had elections before or big choices to make in our history fact is democracy is easy and our founding fathers argued about everything we waste a civil war we overcame depression weave from Arizona great Progressive changed two periods of retrenchment still most Americans alive today certainly the students were I have operated under some common assumptions about who we are and what we stand for out of the turmoil of the Industrial the Great Depression America adapted a new account a 20th century economy guiding are free market with regulations to protect health and safety in Fair competition empowering workers would you and your movements investing in science and infrastructure and educational institutions like you were by strengthening system of primary and secondary education and stitching together a social safety-net and all of this and the middle class and the sense that if you work hard you could climb the ladder of success included in this prosperity and so in response to the stain of slavery and segregation and the racial discrimination the Civil Rights Movement not only opened new doors for African Americans but also open up the floodgates of opportunity for women and Americans with Disabilities and LGBT America’s others to make their own names to full and equal citizenship and remained a pernicious force in our society and continues to this day and although there controversy about how to best ensure genuine equality of opportunity there’s been at least rough agreement among the overwhelming majority of is that our country’s strongest when everybody is treated fairly when people are judged and the content of their character and not the color of their skin or the way in which they worship God or their last names and that consensus been extended beyond our borders and from the wreckage of World War I web architecture system of alliances institutions to underwrite freedom and oppose Soviet totalitarianism in the help poor countries develop American leadership across the globe wasn’t perfect we make mistakes at times we lost sight of our ideals arguments about Vietnam and Iraq but thanks to our leadership volunteers and most of all thanks for the constant sacrifices of our men and women in uniform only reduce the prospects of war between the world’s great powers we helped spread a commitment to certain values and principles like the rule of law and human rights and democracy and the notion of being dignity and worth of every individual and even those countries didn’t abide by those principles were still subject to the Shane and end still had to at least give lip service to the idea and that provided it a lever to continually improve the prospects for people around the world that’s the story of America a story of progress progress in complete progress the progress I’m at progress wasn’t achieve by just a handful of famous leaders making speeches it was 1 because of countless quiet does heroism and dedication like citizens by Ordinary People many of them not much older than you it was one because rather than be bystanders to history Ordinary People and March and mobilized and built and yes voted to make history of course there’s always been another darker aspect of America store progress doesn’t just move in a straight line there’s a reason why progress hasn’t been easy and why it’s Rod our history every two steps forward seems to sometime produce one step back each time we painstakingly pull ourselves closer to our founding ideals creator with certain unalienable rights the ideals that say every child should have opportunity and every man and woman in this country was willing to work hard should be able to find a job and support a fan and pursue their small piece of the American dream we have a collective responsibility to care for the sick and the infirm and we have a responsibility to conserve the amazing bouncy the natural resources of this country and of this planet for future generation each time we’ve gotten closer to those ideals somebody somewhere is pushed back the status quo pushes back sometimes the backlash comes from people who are genuinely if wrongly fear full of change more often it’s manufactured by the powerful than the privilege for water keep us divided and keep us angry and keep us cynical because them maintain the status quo and keep their power and you happen to be coming of age during one of those moments it did not start with Donald Trump he has a symptom not the cost he’s just capitalizing on resentments that politicians have been Fanning for years of fear and anger that’s how to be enormous upheavals that are taking place in your brief life times and by the way and now he’s starting a company that was yesterday but think about him and a smaller more connected world where demographic shifts in The Winds of Change have scrambled not only traditional economic Arrangements but social rank when you didn’t have to take off your shoes at airport most of you don’t remember a time when America wasn’t war or when money and images and information could travel insta play around the globe or when the climate wasn’t changing faster than our efforts to address this changes happen fast fast night time in human history and it created a new economy that has Unleashed incredible Prosperity but it’s also for those with unique skills or access to technology and Capitol a Global Market has meant unprecedented wealth for those not so lucky for the factory worker or the office worker or even middle managers those same forces may have wiped out your job or at least put your notebook and ask for a race and his wages slowed and inequality accelerated those of the top of the economic able to influence government to skew things even more in their Direction cutting taxes on the wealthiest America on winding regulations and weakening worker protections shrinking the safety net so you have come of age during a time of growing inequality a fracturing of economics and I growing economic divide compounded other divisions in our country Regional racial religious cultural and made it harder to build consensus it may politicians less willing to compromise which increased gridlock which made people even more cynical about politics and then the Reckless Behavior Financial Elites triggered a massive financial crisis 10 years ago this week my prices that resulted in the worst recession in any of our lifetime and cause years of hardship for the American people for many of your parents for many of your family’s most of you weren’t old enough to fully focus on what was going on at the time but when I came in office in 2009 we were losing 800,000 jobs a month 800,000 millions of people were losing their homes many were worried we were entering into a second Great Depression so we worked hard to end that crisis but also to break some of the longer-term friends mention we took during a crisis were turned the economy to Healthy Growth and initiated the longest streak of job creation on record and we covered another 20 people like me who’ve been given such a amazing opportunities by this country pay our fair share of taxes to help shut up behind me and my household income was near its all-time high all-time low and wages were rising and poverty rates were falling I mention all this just so when you hear how great is doing right now I’m glad it’s continue but that’s been going on when the job numbers come out monthly job numbers and suddenly Republicans are saying those numbers are the same as they were in 2015 and 2016 and so we made progress but and this is the truth my menstration couldn’t reverse 40 or Trends in 8 years especially once Republicans took over the House of Representatives in 2010 and decided to block everything we did even things that used to support so we pulled the economy out of Crisis but true this day too many people who once felt solidly middle-class still feel very real and very personal even though we took out Bin Laden and while I’m down the world still full of threats and disorder but come screaming through people’s televisions every single day and these challenges and if Rahzar Civic trust and it makes a lot of people feel like the fix is in and the game is rigged and nobody’s looking out for especially those communities outside are big Urban centers and even though your generation is the most diverse in history with a greater celebration of our differences than ever before those are the kinds of conditions that are right for exploitation by politicians who have no compunction and no shame about tapping into America’s history of racial and ethnic and religious division appealing to tribe appealing to fear setting one group against another telling people that order and Security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us or don’t pray like we do that’s it’s his oldest time and in a healthy democracy it doesn’t work are antibodies kicking and people of Goodwill from across political Spectrum call out the biggest in the fear mongers and work the compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature but when there’s a vacuum in our democracy when we stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest Diversion the electronic versions of bread and circuses another voice is filled with the politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold and demagogues promise simple fixes the complex problems no promise to fight for the little guy even Spectators of the wealthiest and most powerful no promise to clean up corruption and then Plummer away they start undermining Norms that insure accountability and try to change the rules to entrench their power further and they appeal to racial nationalism really bad it mailed it all it’s versus Republicans are liberals vs. conservatives Democrats were the bigger Defenders of slavery I took a republican President Abraham Lincoln regrets filibustered anti-lynching legislation was the idea of expanding civil rights and although it was a democratic majority Democrat Jester’s they got the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act over the finish line neither party is had a monopoly on wisdom neither party has been exclusively responsible for us going backwards instead of black but I have to say this cuz sometimes we hear a plague on both your houses over the past few decades wasn’t true when Jamaica was a governor here in Illinois or Jim Thompson Republican friends here in Illinois but over the past few decades the politics of division of resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party this Congress has championed the unwinding of campaign Finance laws to give billionaires outside influence over our politics systematically attack voting rights to make it harder for young people in minorities report about handed out health insurance form ordinary Americans Embrace wild conspiracy theories surrounding Benghazi projected facts on things like climate change Embrace absolutism from a willingness to default on America’s debt by not paying our bills to a refusal to even meet much let’s consider a qualified nominee for the Supreme Court because of you happen to be now by a Democratic president none of this is conservative I don’t I don’t mean to pretend I am channeling Abraham Lincoln now but that’s not what he had in mind I think we helped form the Republican party it’s not conservative it sure isn’t normal it’s radical it’s a vision that says the protection of our power and those whose back us is all that matters even when it hurts the country division that says the few who can afford the high price lobbyist and unlimited campaign contributions set the agenda and over the past two years is now nearing its conclusion for the Republicans in control of Congress in the white house without any checks are balances whatsoever that’s the people like me who I promise don’t need it and don’t even pretend to pay for it supposedly in fiscal conservatism do not matter even though just two years ago when the deficit was lower they said I couldn’t stop working families are seniors on Medicare because the deficit wasn’t existential crisis what changed what what change there’s subsidizing to take advantage of veterans and student some consumers again Nation on Earth to pull out of the global climate agreement it’s not North Korea it’s not Syria it’s not Russia or Saudi Arabia it’s us show me country there a lot of countries in the world where the only one the undermining our alliances closing up to Russia what happened to the Republican party it’s Central organizing in foreign policy was the fight against communism and now they’re closing up to the former head of the KGB actively that would defend our elections from Russian attack what happened their sabotage their health insurance and if they’re still in power next fall you better believe they’re coming at it again they said so in a healthy democracy there’s some checks and balances on this kind of behavior this kind of inconsistency but right now there’s nothing Republicans who know better and Congress and they’re quoted saying yeah we know this is kind of crazy are still bending over backwards to Shield this bedroom Square New York CO2 Leon willing to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work and by the way inside the White House who’s secretly aren’t following the president’s orders that is not a check I’m being serious here that’s not how our democracy supposed to work these people are turn on accountable for not doing us a service by actively promoting 90% of the crazy stuff that’s coming out of this white house and then don’t worry about the other 10% that’s not how things are supposed to work this is not normal these are extraordinary times and they’re dangerous times but here’s the good news in two months we have the chance not the certainly but the chance to restore some semblance of Sanity to our politics because there is actually only one real check on bad policy and that’s you you and your both but Americans will always have disagreements on policy this is a big country it is a raucous country people have different points of view I happen to be a Democrat I support Democratic candidates I believe our policies are better and that we have a bigger Boulder vision of opportunity and equality and justice and inclusive democracy we know there’s a lot of jobs young people aren’t getting a chance. Occupy her or I get paid enough or I’m getting benefits like insurance it’s harder for young people to save for a rainy day retirement on good old ideas like a higher minimum wage good new ideas like medicare-for-all on corporate boards reversing the most egregious corporate tax cut to make sure college students graduate debt-free you know the people are tired of toxic corruption and that democracy depends on transparency and accountability so Democrats are just running on requiring presidential candidates and for making campaign contributions we know the climb isn’t just coming it is here so Democrats aren’t just running on increasing gas mileage in our cars which I did and which like putting a price on carbon pollution put walls up around America walls don’t keep out threats like terrorism or disease and that’s why I we propose meeting or alliances helping other countries develop in pushing back against tyrants and Democrats talk about reforming our immigration system yes it is orderly and it is fair and it is legal but it continues to welcome Strivers and dreamers from all around the world that’s why I’m a Democrat a set of ideas but I believe it I am here to tell you that even if you don’t agree with me or Democrats on policy even if you believe in more libertarian economic theories even if you are an Evangelical in our position on certain social issues is a bridge too far even if you think my assessments of immigration is is mistaken and the Democrats aren’t serious enough about immigration enforcement I’m here to tell you that you should still be concerned with our current course in should still want to see a restoration of honesty and decency and lawfulness in our government it should not be Democratic and Republican should not be able to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents or to explicitly called members of our own party from persecution of prosecution because election happens to be coming up I’m not making that up that’s not hypothetical it shouldn’t be Democratic or republican to save it we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things are public stories we don’t like play me about Fox News or call the enemies of the people it shouldn’t be democratic to say we don’t Target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray we are Americans were supposed to stand up to bullies not follow them what’s supposed to stand up to discrimination and we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers how hard can it be saying the Nazis are bad I’ll be honest sometimes I get in arguments with Progressive friends about what the current political movement requires Norwell meeting folks passionate about social justice who think things have gotten so bad the lines have been so starkly drunk and we have to fight fire with fire we have to do the same things the Republicans that they do Rush adopter tactics say whatever works make up stuff about the other side I don’t agree with that it’s not because I’m soft now because I’m interested in promoting an empty bipartisanship I don’t agree with it because roading are Civic institutions and our Civic trust and making people angry and yelling at each other and making people cynical by government that always works for those who don’t believe in the power of collective action you don’t need an Effective Government or robots press or Reason debate to work when all you’re concerned about is maintaining power in fact cynical people are about government the angry or more the spirit of their about the prospects for change but we believe that in order to move this country forward to actually solve problems and make people’s lives better we need a well-functioning government we need our Civic institutions tour we need cooperation among people of different political Persuasions and to make sure our faith in democracy better bring people together not tearing apart we need majority in Congress and State legislatures 4 Series about governing and want to bring about real change in improvements in people’s lives and we won’t win people over by calling them names or just missing is racist or sexist homophobic Democrats mean to choose between trying to peel the white working-class voters or voters of color and women in LGBT America’s that’s nonsense every demographic we won by reaching out to everybody and competing everywhere and by fighting for every vote and that’s what we got to do in this election in every election after that and we can’t do that if we immediately disregard what others have to say from the start because they’re not like us cuz they’re not straight if we think that somehow there’s no way they can understand how I’m feeling and therefore don’t have any standing to speak on certain matters because we’re only defined by certain characteristics that doesn’t work if you want to healthy democracy we can’t do that if we traffic and apps Lutz when it comes to policy democracy work we have to be able to get inside the reality of people who are different have different experiences come from different backgrounds we have to engage them even when it is pressed we have to listen to him even when we don’t like what they have to say we have to hope that we can change their minds and we have to remain open to them changing arms and that doesn’t abandoning our principles or caving too bad policy in the interest of maintaining some funny version of Civility that seems to be by the way the definition of Civility offered by 2 a congressional Republicans right now we will be polite so long as we get the hundred percent and you don’t call us when the president does something outrageous but we won’t really actually do anything about it that’s not civility that’s abdicating your responsibilities but again I digress making democracy work means holding on to our principles having clarity about our principles and then having the confidence to get me Arena have a serious debate and it also means appreciating that progress does not happen all at once but when you put your shoulder to the wheel if you’re willing to fight for it things you get better and let me tell you something particular young people here better is good all the time in the White House that was good that’s the history of progress in this country not perfect better the Civil Rights Act end racism made things better Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors but it made things better from millions of people do not let people tell ya the fights not worth it because you won’t get everything that you want fat makes no sense you can make it better better is always worth fighting for that’s our Founders expected the system of self-government to work that through the testing of ideas and the application of reason and evidence and proof we could sort through our differences and nobody would get exactly what they wanted it would be possible to find a basis for Commonwealth and that Common Ground exists maybe it’s not fashionable to say that right now it’s hard to see it with all the nonsense in Washington hard to hear it with all the noise what common ground exists I have seen it I have lived it I know there are white people who deeply about black people being treated unfairly I have talked to them and love them and I know there black people who care deeply about the struggles of white Rural America I’m one of them and I have a track record to prove it I know there are evangelicals deeply committed to climate change I’ve seen them do the work I know there are conservatives who think there’s nothing compassionate about separating immigrant children from their mothers I know there are Republicans who believed government should only perform a few minimal functions but that one function should be making sure nearly three thousand Americans don’t die in a hurricane Common Grounds out there I see it everyday just how people interact how people treat each other you said on the ball you see it at work he said in place of worship but to say that, exist doesn’t mean it will inevitably went out history shows the power of fear and the closer that we get to election day those invested in the politics of fear and division will work will do anything to hang onto fortunately I am hopeful because out of this political Darkness I am seeing a Great Awakening of citizenship all across the country I cannot tell you how it encouraged I’ve been by watching Soma people get involved for the first time or the first time in a long time they’re marching in their organizing in the registering people to vote and they’re running for office themselves when was crop of democratic candidates running for congress and running for governor running for the state legislature running for district attorney running for school board it is a movement of citizens who happened to be younger and more and more feet whenever before and that’s really useful we need more but we’ve got first time candidates we got Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan record numbers of women Americans call fixes a career but their shoes and rolled up their sleeves and grab a clipboard because they truly believe this time is different as mom is too important to sit out Have you listened to what these candidates are talking about an individual Racers across the country you’ll find and I just running against something they are running for something around expand opportunity and they’re running to restore the honor and compassion that should be the essence of public service and speaking as a Democrat that’s when the Democratic parties always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people when we let it with conviction and principle and bold new ideas the antidote to A government controlled pulled by a powerful few a government that divides is a government by the organized energize inclusive many that’s what this moment about it has to be the answer you cannot sit back and wait for a savior you cannot stop because you don’t feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate this is not a rock concert this is not Coachella we don’t need a misfire all we need are decent honest hard-working people who are accountable and we have America’s best interest at heart and don’t step up and don’t join our government and they will make things better if they have support one election will not fix everything that needs to be fixed but it will be a start and you have to start it what’s going to fix people ask me what are you going to do for the election now the question is what are you going to do you’re the antidote for your participation and your spirit and your determination not just in this election but in every subsequent election and in the days between elections because in the end that the threat to our democracy doesn’t just come from Donald Trump or the curb at republicans in Congress or the coke lobbyists or too much compromise from Democrats or Russian have the biggest the biggest democracy is cynicism cynicism too many people to turn away from politics and stay home on Election Day there are now more eligible voters in your generation than in any other which means your generation now has more power than anybody to change things if you want you can make sure America gets out of its current fun if you actually care about it you have the power to make sure we see the about to exercise that cloud tattoo exercise that power you have to show up in the last midterms elections in 2014 fewer than one in five young people vote one in five or three is it any Wonder this Congress doesn’t reflect your values and your priorities are are you surprised by that this whole project of self-government only works if everybody’s doing their part don’t tell me your vote doesn’t matter one states in the presidential election cuz of 24 Precinct I hope these last two years if you don’t like what’s going on right now and you shouldn’t do not complain don’t hashtag don’t get anxious don’t retreat don’t binge on whatever his don’t lose yourself and ironic Detachment don’t put your head in the sand don’t boo vote if you are really concerned the best way to protest not just for senators and representatives but for Mayors Insurance in state legislators in Philadelphia in Boston unlike States attorneys in District Attorney’s we’re looking at issues in a new life for realize that the vast majority of law enforcement do the right thing in a really hard job and we just need to make sure all of them do for nothing but thoughts and prayers after a mass shooting you’ve got to do what the Parklane kids are doing something they’re out there can you change minds and registering people and they’re not giving up until we have a Congress that sees your lies as more important than a campaign check for me and I’ll write you got about if you support the me-too movement you’re outraged by the sexual harassment and assault inspired by the women who share them you got to do more than retweet a hashtag you got to vote part of the reason women are more vulnerable in the workplace is because not enough women are bosses in the workplace which is why we need to strengthen and enforce laws that protect woman in the workplace not just from harassment but from discrimination in hiring and promotion and not getting play the same amount for doing the same work that requires lost love get passed by legislators you got about when you vote you got the power to make it easier to afford College and harder to shoot up a school when you vote you got the car to make sure a family keeps his health insurance you could save somebody’s life when you vote you got the power to make sure right now don’t feel emboldened weather hoods off or their hoods on in Charlottesville 30 minutes 30 minutes of your time as it is democracy we have been through much darker time from these and somehow each generation of Americans carried us through to the other side not by sitting around and waiting for something to happen not by leaving it to others to do something but by Leading that for change themselves if you do that if you get involved and you get engaged and you knock on some doors and you talk with your friends are you with your family members and you change the minds and you vote something powerful happens change happens hope happens not Perfection not every bit of Cruelty and sadness and poverty and disease suddenly stricken from the earth they’ll still be but with each new candidate that surprises you were the victory that you supported us a spark of hope apples with each doing or helps homeless Family Fun shelf veteran get the support he or she is earned each time that happens hope happens quality and opportunity hopes Prince and that can be the legacy of your generation you can be the generation that at a critical moment stood up and reminded us just how precious this experiment in democracy really is just how powerful it can be when we fight for what we believe it I believe in you I believe you will help lead us in the right direction and I will be right there with you every step of the way thank you
Former President Barack Obama spoke about President Trump, the challenges facing democracy today, and the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm elections in a speech Friday at the University of Illinois. Watch his full speech.

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