The audio from President Obama’s secret Friday speech at MIT’s Sloan Sports Analytics Conference just leaked, much to the delight of the hundreds of millions of Americans who yearn for his steady, dignified leadership.
Although attendees were forbidden to record the speech in any medium, some rebellious spirit delivered a bootleg audio file to Reason magazine, in which the former president delivered freewheeling remarks that shed light on his inner thoughts about the state of our republic.
Firstly, Obama lamented that fact that the American electorate has segregated itself into two “entirely different realities,” largely because hyper-partisan news outlets, like FOX, InfoWars and Breitbart have brainwashed millions of people with right-wing propaganda that destroys any chance of debating perspectives based on a commonly agreed-upon set of facts.
Obama cautioned that, if these divisions persist, “[I]t is very difficult to figure out how democracy works over the long term in those circumstances.”
In other words, he challenged the social media companies to devise new ways to responsibly shape a productive civic discourse.
The sanguine leader contrasted the difference between what the U.S. should stand for and what happens in nations like China, in which the government decided what information the populace can access.
“[T]hat’s not who we are,” Obama admonished. “And that’s not the society I want to live in . . . [we need] basic rules of the road in place that create level playing fields.”
In essence, he said that we can interpret the facts differently, but if we don’t engender a culture in which every American has access to the facts, we leave no room for collective progress.
In the case of issues like climate change — which Obama addressed with by spearheading the Paris Accord, and Trump promptly betrayed, upon being elected — humanity cannot save itself from catastrophe without working with the same set of facts.
As Obama put it:
You and I can have an argument about climate change in which you conclude, ‘we’re not going to stop the Chinese and the Indians from burning a bunch of coal. It’s gone on for a pretty long time; we’re just going to have to adapt; and maybe we’ll invent some new energy source in the nick of time, and that’s why I’m opposed to the Paris Accords . . . I’ll come back and say, ‘well no it just turns out if we just invest in some smart technology and we create a smart regulatory framework that incentivizes investment in clean energy, we can actually solve this problem now, and if we don’t it’s going to be catastrophic.’
However, Obama countered, “I can’t have that same debate with somebody who just holds up a snowball in the middle of the Senate chamber in winter and says, ‘look there’s no climate change because it’s snowing!’ Which happened by the way. I didn’t just make that up.”
Another issue that Trump ignores, women’s rights, Obama has a history of tackling head-on — as in the case of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
“In today’s culture, if you are not deliberately [addressing equal pay and a comfortable work environment for women], you are going to fall behind, and someone is going to beat you,” he said.
Obama addressed gender issues as they manifested themselves in his own White House, using the inhuman work hours imposed on his staff as an example that, if they could achieve fair practices for families in his administration, any business can do it in the private sector:
When I came out of the White House, everything looked like it was in slow motion. I felt like I was Neo in The Matrix. Our folks were putting in 80-hour work weeks and barely getting vacations and under unimaginable pressure. We set up policies that if you had a child, you had a parent teacher conference, you had the things that needed to be done to raise someone, that was part of the deal . . .The private sector has to step up because it’s smart business. The data shows it.
The former president also let slip that he is proud of his eight scandal-free years in the White House, which stand in stark contrast to the daily Trump scandals, any one of which would have ended a prior presidency.
In an especially cutting dig, Obama added that having no “embarrassing” scandals is an exceptionally “low bar” for the leader of the free world to have to meet.
Hopefully, the release of the audio will embolden Obama to continue speaking his mind. His truthful, informed remarks serve as a refreshing antidote to Trump’s incessant onslaught of ignorant lies.
To hear President Obama’s MIT speech, press play.