Many in Charge ‘Aren’t Even Pretending to Be,’ Obama Says to Graduates

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Many in Charge ‘Aren’t Even Pretending to Be,’ Obama Says to Graduates

In two virtual commencement speeches, former President Barack Obama called on the Class of 2020 to lead change in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

You’re being asked to find your way in a world in the middle of a devastating pandemic and a terrible recession. The timing is not ideal. This pandemic is fully finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge. If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you. With everything suddenly feeling like it’s up for grabs, this is your time to seize the initiative. You’re going to have to grow up faster than some generations. This pandemic has shaken up the status quo and laid bare a lot of our country’s deep seeded problems, from massive economic inequality to ongoing racial disparities, to a lack of basic health care for people who need it. It’s woken a lot of young people up to the fact that the old ways of doing things just don’t work. That it doesn’t matter how much money you make if everyone around you is hungry and sick. And that our society, and our democracy only work when we think, not just about ourselves, but about each other. With all the challenges this country faces right now, nobody can tell you, no, you’re too young to understand or this is how it’s always been done. Because with so much uncertainty, with everything suddenly up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape. Don’t be afraid. America’s gone through tough times before: slavery, civil war, famine, disease, the Great Depression, and 9/11. And each time we came out stronger. Usually because a new generation — young people like you — learned from past mistakes and figured out how to make things better.

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