Barack Obama delivers passionate defense of equality in Nelson Mandela Lecture

Barack Obama delivers passionate defense of equality in Nelson Mandela Lecture

"If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it's going to be hard for us to cooperate", Obama said.

"Everyday I read the newspaper and just think like 'Brothers, what's wrong with you guys?" We're violent, we're bullying. Obama, who scripted history by becoming the first black President of the USA in 2009, has long shown a fascination with Gandhi, hanging a photo of the Indian icon on the wall of his Senate office and citing Gandhi in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

"I believe a world governed by such principles is possible", he said.

"Look around. Strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning", he said in a speech in South Africa to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's birth.

Before arriving in South Africa, Obama paid a brief visit to Kenya, his father's home country.

Obama took center stage as the people who packed the room took to their feet shouting and cheering. Attendees from more than 40 countries will participate in a five-day workshop emphasizing leadership development.

Obama told the crowd he enjoyed the more informal setting of town halls as he often saw ambitious "kindred spirits" who were "doing wonderful things but so often feel isolated" and lacked the framework to take their ideas forward.

Obama, delivering his first big speech since leaving office, stressed the impact that Mandela made in the lives of people that lived far away from South Africa.

Barack Obama delivers passionate defense of equality in Nelson Mandela Lecture
Barack Obama delivers passionate defense of equality in Nelson Mandela Lecture

With a thinly veiled reference to his successor Donald Trump, Obama opened by remarking on the "strange and uncertain times we are in...and they are very odd".

In what was perhaps another allusion to Trump, he criticized leaders who "just make stuff up.when they're caught in a lie and they just double down".

He told a room full of journalists that he believed Putin's denials of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election over briefings from U.S. intelligence agencies that stated the contrary.

Later, as Obama wrapped up the town hall event, he offered the room one piece of advice: "Worry less about what you want to be and worry more about what you want to do".

The series has been put together using left-over footage shot for the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom 2013 British South African film that was filmed in South Africa with Idris Elba.

Obama's critiques of Trump and his party are likely to grow more frequent this fall, when the former president is expected to campaign actively for Democratic House and Senate candidates.

CNN's David McKenzie reported from Johannesburg and Lauren Said-Moorhouse reported from London.

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