Former President Barack Obama suggested people who refuse to engage in dialogue with those holding opposing viewpoints should be more open-minded.
Speaking in South Africa at a celebration for the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Tuesday, Obama encouraged everyone to try harder to debate with people who look different and with people who have different political ideologies.
“Most of us prefer to surround ourselves with opinions that validate what we already believe…But Democracy demands that we’re also able to get inside the reality of people who are different than us so we can understand their point of view.”
Obama added, “Maybe we can change their minds but maybe they’ll change ours. And you can’t do this if you just out of hand disregard what your opponents have to say from the start.”
“And you can’t you can’t do it if you insist that those who aren’t like you, ‘because they’re white’ or ‘because they’re male,’ that ‘somehow they can’t understand what I’m feeling,’ that ‘somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters,’” the former president explained.
The message of unification is much needed in South Africa where racial tensions have reached emergency levels with white farmers being targeted and murdered.
Obama could also be sending a message to American liberals who are pushing moderate Democrats away with their extremist antics.