Barack Obama Says He is ‘Hopeful’ After ‘Watching the Heightened Activism of Young People’

In an essay today, former President Barack Obama said that “watching the heightened activism of young people in recent weeks, of every race and every station, makes me hopeful.”

I wrote out some thoughts on how to make this moment a real turning point to bring about real change––and pulled together some resources to help young activists sustain the momentum by channeling their energy into concrete action.

From the Hill:

“In fact, throughout American history, it’s only in response to protest that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities,” he said. “But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.”

“The bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both,” Obama wrote. 

Obama said efforts to enact change would be most impactful at the local level. The elected officials “who matter most” when it comes to reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work as state, city and county officials, he said. 

“Voter turnout in these local races is usually pitifully low, especially among young people — which makes no sense given the direct impact these offices have on social justice issues, not to mention the fact that who wins and who loses those seats is often determined by just a few thousand, or even a few hundred, votes,” Obama added.

Californian Republican candidate for Congress, Errol Webber, disagreed with Obama’s assertions, saying that his “administration caused this division and stoked it every single day for 8 years.”

“The black community is tired of your empty promises,” he continued, “You did nothing but push hate for 8 years. You own this, Barack.”

One Democratic Socialist Twitter user from Seattle had some critical words as well for the former president, saying that it was “too late” and that Obama “betrayed progress” and “owns this.”