In Graduation Address, Obama Criticizes Leadership Gaps In Pandemic Response, Highlights Inequalities
“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,” former President Barack Obama said. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.” Obama also called on the graduates to be bold in their vision of the world to fix the inequalities in the world.
The Wall Street Journal:
In Commencement Addresses, Obama Takes Aim At Coronavirus Response
Former President Barack Obama returned to the national stage on Saturday, delivering a pair of virtual commencement addresses in which he criticized the response by some U.S. leaders to the coronavirus pandemic. Mr. Obama, who has largely stayed out of the public eye since leaving office, highlighted the impact of the pandemic on students in speeches to college and high school graduates, both of whom saw their school year cut short by the spread of the virus. (Siddiqui, 5/17)
The Washington Post:
Obama Criticizes Nation’s Leaders For Bungled Handling Of Coronavirus Pandemic
Obama did not mention his successor, President Trump, by name. But the comments echoed criticism of the Trump administration that Obama leveled last month in a video endorsement of former vice president Joe Biden. Obama said then that the pandemic had shown that “having leaders who are informed and honest and seek to bring people together” matters. (Scherer and Mettler, 5/16)
Obama Jabs U.S. Response To Coronavirus In Commencement Address
Obama also addressed the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, a young black man killed while jogging in Georgia, while acknowledging the hardships that graduates and members of the African American community also now face during the pandemic. “Let’s be honest, a disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country,” Obama said. “We see it in the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on our communities, 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.” (Semones, 5/16)
Obama Tells Graduating HBCU Students To Step Up Because Leaders 'Not Even Pretending To Be In Charge'
He called on the graduates to be bold in their vision of the world. "If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you," Obama said, later adding, "No generation has been better positioned to be warriors of justice and remake the world." His speech was part of a larger virtual event, titled "Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition." It was a two-hour virtual HBCU commencement program presented by Chase in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the United Negro College Fund, the National Association for Equal Opportunity, the NBA, Paul Quinn College, Howard University and JPMorgan Chase's Advancing Black Pathways Initiative, according to the former president's office. (Torres, 5/16)
‘Grossly Incompetent’: Trump Dismisses Obama Over Coronavirus Criticism
Asked about Obama’s comments, Trump first told a pool of reporters at the White House that administration officials “had a great weekend” during a working trip to Camp David. “We did a lot of terrific meetings, tremendous progress is being made on many fronts, including coming up with a cure for this horrible plague that has beset our country,” he said. When pressed further, Trump added: “Look, he was an incompetent president. That’s all I can say. Grossly incompetent.” Since leaving office, Obama has largely avoided weighing in on politics or how his successor is doing. But recently, with the coronavirus outbreak taking a huge toll on the country, he has become more outspoken. (Dugyala, 5/17)
Trump Wants A Fight With Obama. An Ally Cautions, 'Be Careful What You Wish For'
With Joe Biden on the ballot, so is the legacy of Barack Obama, and it appears we're about to see a throwdown between the last president and the current one — and their polar opposite worldviews. Amid criticism of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has been falsely laying blame on Obama for leaving the "cupboard bare" when it comes to the national stockpile of emergency medical supplies and equipment. (Montanaro, 5/18)