On Thursday, former President Barack Obama had a stark warning to all Americans that Donald Trump is a “grave and imminent threat” to racial justice and American democracy.
Obama was not the only former president to speak out about Trump during the funeral for civil rights icon John Lewis. Former President Bill Clinton also had stern words of his own. Both former presidents made it very clear that the upcoming election could be the most important of our lifetimes.
Obama’s eulogy for Lewis was his most political intervention since he left office. It was also his most passionate. Obama and Lewis were close friends brought even closer by the racist divide that Trump has caused across the country with his actions and his words.
Obama’s speech on Thursday from the church where Martin Luther King Jr. once preached, was raw and unrestrained especially on the subject of race.
His speech for John Lewis was filled with urgency at that moment he was not a former president but instead an activist.
Obama’s speech inspired liberals who have missed his voice and often found their own voices lost in a Trump era of anger and racism.
On Twitter, several conservatives tried to claim that Obama hijacked Lewis’ funeral to make a political statement, but anyone who knew Lewis and how he felt about Trump knows he would have been proud of his friend’s stand and words.
Donald Trump did not pay his respects to Lewis as he lied in state nor did he attend the funeral. Trump and Lewis often clashed, but as a sitting president, Trump should have shown his respect for Lewis who served his country for more than 30 years.
Instead of attending Lewis’ funeral, Trump was busy on Twitter suggesting that the 2020 presidential election be postponed.
During his speech, Obama shared that “Bull Connor may be gone. But today we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of Black Americans. George Wallace may be gone. But we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators,” Obama said, in reference to Trump’s “law and order” alarmism.
“We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to cast a ballot. But even as we sit here, there are those in power that are doing their darnedest to discourage people from voting — by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive ID laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that is going to be dependent on mailed-in ballots so people don’t get sick.”
In the most significant line of his eulogy, Obama called for Senate revisions to end partisan gerrymandering and to ensure that everyone’s vote finally counts.
“And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster — another Jim Crow relic — in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do.”