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story.lead_photo.caption Former U.S. President Barack Obama, left, delivers his speech at the 16th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, July 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

JOHANNESBURG — Without ever mentioning President Donald Trump by name, former U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday took aim at "strongman politics" in his highest-profile speech since leaving office, urging people around the world to respect human rights and other values now under threat in an impassioned address marking the 100th anniversary of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela's birth.

Obama's speech to a cheering crowd of thousands in South Africa countered many of Trump's policies.

Obama opened by calling today's times "strange and uncertain," adding that "each day's news cycle is bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines." These days "we see much of the world threatening to return to a more dangerous, more brutal, way of doing business," he said.

He targeted politicians pushing "politics of fear, resentment, retrenchment," saying they are on the move "at a pace unimaginable just a few years ago."

He attacked "strongman politics," saying that "those in power seek to undermine every institution ... that gives democracy meaning."

He spoke up for equality in all forms, saying that "I would have thought we had figured that out by now," and he even invoked the World Cup-winning French team and its diversity. He warned that countries that engage in xenophobia "eventually ... find themselves consumed by civil war."

And he noted the "utter loss of shame among political leaders when they're caught in a lie and they just double down and lie some more," warning that the denial of facts — such as that of climate change — could be the undoing of democracy.

But Obama reminded the audience that "we've been through darker times. We've been through lower valleys," and he closed with a call to action: "I say if people can learn to hate, they can be taught to love."

He received a standing ovation.

"Just by standing on the stage honoring Nelson Mandela, Obama is delivering an eloquent rebuke to Trump," said John Stremlau, professor of international relations at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, who called the timing auspicious as the commitments that defined Mandela's life are "under assault" in the U.S. and elsewhere.

"Yesterday we had Trump and Putin standing together, now we are seeing the opposing team: Obama and Mandela."

This is Obama's first visit to Africa since leaving office in early 2017. He stopped earlier this week in Kenya, where he visited the rural birthplace of his late father.

Obama's speech highlighted how the Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was imprisoned for 27 years, kept up his campaign against what appeared to be insurmountable odds to end apartheid, South Africa's harsh system of white minority rule.

Mandela, who was released from prison in 1990 and became South Africa's first black president four years later, died in 2013, leaving a powerful legacy of reconciliation and diversity along with a resistance to inequality, economic and otherwise.

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Comments

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  • skeptic1
    July 17, 2018 at 11:43 a.m.

    Meet the new president of "The Deep State."

  • ARMNAR
    July 17, 2018 at 12:57 p.m.

    Well done, comrade septic/libertas. Many rubles for you.

  • TimberTopper
    July 17, 2018 at 1:37 p.m.

    septic1, there's one of those thoughts of yours that should have been flushed!

  • skeptic1
    July 17, 2018 at 4:02 p.m.

    Arnmar/Timber...more juvenile utterances from two who have nothing but name calling to offer.

  • ARMNAR
    July 17, 2018 at 4:49 p.m.

    septic, nice deflection. You support the most juvenile name-caller alive.

    The rest of us see your blatant hypocrisy, even if you can't/won't.

  • Foghorn
    July 17, 2018 at 8:20 p.m.

    Septic - ‘attaboy’...really? Even if you’re trying to be anonymous, how is ‘attaboy’ even an option? It renders any/everything you post irrelevant. Not really important given that everything you post IS irrelevant. I find it hilarious that you rail against ‘name calling’ yet you remain anonymous and bring only name calling to the table. I’m guessing in 3rd grade you were a bully wannabe but couldn’t take the blowback.

  • skeptic1
    July 17, 2018 at 8:34 p.m.

    Doubleblind...I must really get under your skin Mr. Winter, what do you care and what difference does it make whether I am male, female, or other. My real name is private as it should be for everyone here especially since a couple of you regulars daily cross the line of civility and cannot engage in discourse without name calling and insults.

  • Foghorn
    July 17, 2018 at 9:27 p.m.

    Your gender and ethnicity matter not in the least, attaboy. The only thing that matters is that you are willing to own and backup your posts with facts, which you clearly are not as evidenced above and on many other strings.

  • ARMNAR
    July 17, 2018 at 9:29 p.m.

    skeptic, Trump is one of the most juvenile name-callers around. It's pretty disingenuous of you to criticize others for a trait you apparently admire in POTUS.

    But keep it up; it only serves to further weaken whatever tenuous case you think you might've had.

  • Packman
    July 17, 2018 at 10:34 p.m.

    Hey skeptic1 - Seed Tick Donnie (armnar) has unrepentantly called Sarah Sanders a "whore". That he/she calls out anyone for name-calling is beyond pure nonsense.

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