As Americans look for some kind of relatable, compassionate, and intelligent leadership, President Barack Obama, has issued a long, thoughtful essay both on Medium and on his Instagram account. In it, Obama outlines ways Americans can help bring about real change in the coming months. And his biggest point is that the way forward isn’t just about protests or voting, but instead, a way to think about both at the same time.
Here are the big takeaways from Obama’s statement, and how parents – or anyone — can find solace and think about ways to “get to work” on making real change.
The Protests Are (Mostly) a Good Sign of Public Change
While the looting and violence that is the result of the protests can be discouraging, Obama has pointed out that non-violent public demonstrations are, historically, a good sign that things may actually change. “The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable… in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities.”
As long as protest remain non-violent, he said, there’s a good chance change can come from that.
Changing Systems Can’t Only Be a Top-Down Solution
Although poor leadership on the federal level is a problem, Obama is urging people to think locally in the coming elections. “The elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal just system work at the state and local levels.”
Right now, if elected, Joe Biden has said that he would create a police oversight board within his first 100 days in office. This is a good idea, but if voters aren’t paying attention to the elections and laws passed relative to their local police departments, then any federal oversight set up by (hypothetical) future President Biden, won’t be as effective. So, Obama is saying, by all means, vote for Biden in November if you want. But also, pay attention to your local elections. Now, more than ever.
Protests Only Take Us So Far
Obama is in support of peaceful protests. That’s because he’s smart and he knows that these protests represent, often, a new generation of voices speaking out against old problems. That said, he also writes “But eventually…aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.”
Just as Killer Mike pointed out, you have to “beat-up” the enemy at the voting booth. Obama’s way of thinking is simple and generous: awareness is raised from the protests, which is great. But, when the protests end, voters can’t forget why they were protesting, and, what they’re going to do about it.
You can read all of Obama’s thoughts in his Instagram post below.