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President Obama Discusses Policing And Protests In Town Hall: Change Will 'Require Everyone’s Partic

After nearly a week of protests following the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, former President Barack Obama addressed the country in his first on-camera remarks about the national unrest during an Obama Foundation virtual town hall.

Obama began his address by encouraging young people to protest peacefully and vote in every election, including the November presidential race. He spoke directly to young people of color, protesters, and law enforcement in his opening remarks. To the protesters, he said, "When sometimes I feel despair, I just see what’s happening with young people all across the country and the talent and voice and sophistication they’re displaying, and it makes me feel optimistic and like this country is going to get better."

To young people of color, he offered a message of hope and referenced his daughters Sasha and Malia Obama. "I want to speak directly to the young men and women of color in this country, who...have witnessed too much violence and too much death and too often some of that violence has come from folks who were supposed to be serving and protecting you. I want you to know that you matter, I know you know that your lives matter, that your dreams matter. When I go home and I look at the faces of my daughters Sasha and Malia, and I look at my nephews and nieces, I see limitless potential that deserves to flourish and thrive. You should be able to learn and make mistakes and live a life of joy without having to worry about what’s going to happen when you walk to the store or go for a jog or [are] driving down the street or looking at some birds in a park. And so I hope that you also feel hopeful even as you may feel angry because you have the power to make things better and you have helped to make the entire country feel as if this is something that’s got to change."

And to law enforcement officials, he said, "I want to acknowledge the folks in law enforcement that share the goals of reimagining policing because there are folks out there who took their oath to serve your communities to your countries [who] have a tough job, and I know you’re just as outraged about the tragedies in the recent weeks as are many of the protesters, so we’re grateful for the vast majority of you who protect and serve. I’ve been heartened to see those in law enforcement who recognize, 'Let me march along with these protestors. Let me stand side by side and recognize that I want to be part of the solution,' and have shown restraint and volunteered and engaged and listened because you’re a vital part of the conversation, and change is going to require everyone’s participation."

Here, his full opening remarks:

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