President Barack Obama appeared on The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah Wednesday to promote his new book A Promised Land.
Obama talked about his hopes for inspiring a new generation of change-makers through the efforts of the Obama Foundation, the ways America’s position on the world stage has evolved, and why the fight for justice calls for a variety of voices that includes activists, artists, and writers, not just politicians.
As an example, Obama pointed to writer James Baldwin and his 1963 masterpiece, The Fire Next Time, which was hugely influential and inspiring to Civil Rights leaders and politicians, but that he himself never delved into government although his contributions far outweighed what any government actors did.
Noah also challenged Obama to justify the Democratic Party’s constant equivocation with the more left leaning, progressive members of the party and its constant move to the middle, while Republicans remain bombastic and unapologetic about their more right leaning views. Obama said that was a function of the GOP having become a “minority party” who tries to be loudest to assert themselves.
Obama answered his criticism of the language of “defunding the police” following the murder of George Floyd this summer and subsequent protests affiliated with #BlackLivesMatter saying that we must be precise in our language to preclude confusion and obfuscation by both the press as well as the opposition.
Obama explained that for example, if you were to suggest that when dealing with a screaming homeless man that it would be better to send a trained social or healthcare worker to the scene rather than a police officer who doesn’t have that sort of training, then most people would agree. But when you say “defund the police” it opens up all sorts of associations and doesn’t elucidate exactly what that entails.
Obama told Noah that he has no regrets in leaving public life after his presidency ended. “There are people I know who had them when they leave public life. Michelle and I, it’s something we share, we feel good about the work we did, we don’t feel anxiety about not being the center of attention. We get frustrated like citizens when we see something unjust or unfair… the goal for us is to find new ways to have that same impact,” Obama said.
Watch the interview below.