On Tuesday, former President Barack Obama spoke to a sold-out crowd of over 6,000 people at a speech sponsored by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. The former president touched on pressing issues facing western democracies such as Canada and the U.S., including climate change, terrorism, democracy, and an ever-increasing populist backlash.
According to Obama, improving the international order that’s been in place following World War II is key as we head into the future, according to the Montreal Gazette.
“The United States and Canada helped to lead that effort, cooperated to make the world a more secure, just and prosperous place. Our history together, our efforts together, speak to a common set of values.”
Although he never mentioned Trump by name, it was blatantly obvious to those present just who Obama was referencing: his successor and 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump.
“We are in an environment where we are only accepting information based on what our opinions are rather than basing our opinions on the facts we receive, and reason and logic.”
Regarding climate change and the US governments’ recent withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, Obama told the audience:
“Obviously, I’m disappointed. We’re just going to have to ask with more urgency. I’m looking forward to the United States being a leader and not on the sidelines going forward.”
“In Paris, we came together around the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change. An agreement that even with the temporary absence of American leadership will still give our children a fighting chance.”
As he discussed technology and the current age of instant communication and information, he appeared to take yet another jab at the current POTUS:
“Where TV and Twitter can feed us a steady stream of bad news and sometimes fake news, it can seem like the international order we have created is constantly being tested and the centre may not hold. And in some cases, that leads people to search for certainty and control and they can call for isolationism or nationalism or they can suggest rolling back the rights of others. Or simply they can try to retreat and suggest we have no obligations beyond our borders, or beyond our communities, or beyond our tribe – that what’s good for me and my immediate people is all that matters, that everyone else is on their own.”
Obama encouraged the crowd to reject succumbing to hate and fear-mongering, and instead to “reach across our divides” in an effort to move forward together.
“History also shows us there is a better way. Canada shows, the United States, Europe, Japan, show it is possible for us to overcome our fears and to reach across our divides.”
All in all, the former president’s speech serves as a much needed reminder to take the high road and to fight for the values upon which western democracies were founded — despite the overwhelming push to do the opposite from members of the far-right.
Watch the speech in its entirety below, via YouTube: