Former President Barack Obama delivered blistering criticism Saturday of President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, during a virtual commencement speech to graduates of historically black colleges and universities.
Obama did not mention Trump by name, but it was obvious he was referring to the Trump administration.
“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,” Obama told the Class of 2020. “A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.”
[Watch the video below]
Obama’s comments followed his recent criticism of Trump in a recorded call to former Obama administration employees, when he described the White House’s response to the pandemic as “an absolute chaotic disaster.”
During his remarks today, the nation’s 44th president urged graduates to give back to their communities.
“If the world is going to get better, it’s going to be up to you,” Obama said, while also praising the graduates for completing their studies during these unprecedented times.
“You’re being asked to find your way in the world, in the middle of a devastating pandemic and a terrible recession,” he stated. “The timing is not ideal, and let’s be honest, a disease like this just spotlights the underlying inequalities and extra burdens that black communities have historically had to deal with in this country.”
He went on to speak publicly for the first time about Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old African-American man who was shot and killed while jogging on a residential street in Brunswick, Georgia on February 23. Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, were arrested two months after the shooting, amid public outcry, and charged with murder and aggravated assault.
“Injustice like this isn’t new,” Obama said. “What is new is that so much of your generation has woken up to the fact that the status quo needs fixing.”
The ceremony was hosted by Kevin Hart, and 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.
Others taking part included Common, Steve Harvey, Debbie Allen, Doug E. Fresh, Mellody Hobson, and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), a Howard University graduate.
This evening, Obama is speaking at “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020,” a one-hour multimedia event hosted by the XQ Institute, the LeBron James Family Foundation, and the Entertainment Industry Foundation.
You can watch the full “Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition” event below.