Former President Barack Obama on Saturday advised 2020 graduates to give up on the adults currently in charge and chart a new way forward for the world.
“The old ways of doing things just don’t work,” Obama said in his online commencement speech to 2020 high school graduates who could not attend ceremonies due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The former president did not specifically criticize President Donald Trump but had a lot of criticism for adults and current people in power.
“All those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing, turns out they don’t have all the answers, a lot of them aren’t even asking the right questions,” he said.
He added that adults with “fancy titles and important jobs” sometimes behaved like “little kids.”
“Doing what feels good, what’s convenient, what’s easy, that’s what little kids think. Unfortunately, a lot of so-called grownups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs, still feel that way, which is why things are so screwed up,” he said.
Obama said that the coronavirus pandemic only heightened the current divisions and social injustices like economic inequality, racial disparities, and the lack of universal health care.
He sympathized with the graduates, noting that they were already struggling with the “added pressures of social media, reports of school shootings, and the specter of climate change.”
Obma tried to cheer them up by noting that even though they were missing their graduation ceremonies, they would not have to sit through long speeches.
“Not that many people look great in those caps, especially if you have big ears like me,” he said.
The president offered a lot of advice, but not a lot of hope, particularly about attending college in the fall.
“If you planned on going away to college, getting dropped off on campus in the fall, that’s no longer a given,” he said.
He acknowledged that he was “one of the old guys” but urged them to leave the past behind and move the world forward.
“With so much uncertainty, when everything is up for grabs, this is your generation’s world to shape,” he said, noting the past American struggles of slavery, civil war, famine, disease, the Great Depression, and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“Each time we came out stronger, usually because a new generation, people like you, learned from past mistakes and figured out how to make things better,” he said.