Obama praises American democracy in valedictory

  • 17/11/2016
Barack Obama (Reuters)
Barack Obama (Reuters)

President Barack Obama has extolled the strengths of democracy from its Greek birthplace in a valedictory speech aimed at highlighting the values he sought to respect in office and prodding his Republican successor, Donald Trump, to follow suit.

On a farewell trip to Europe, President Obama on Wednesday tried to reassure allies that core US priorities, including a commitment to the NATO military alliance, would continue under Mr Trump, despite the New York businessman's campaign trail statements that called that commitment into question.

Mr Obama portrayed the United States as an example of democracies prizing the peaceful transfer of power, even when ideas between the incoming and outgoing leaders are opposed.

"The next American president and I could not be more different," he said to an audience in Athens. "We have very different points of view, but American democracy is bigger than any one person."

Mr Obama took care of some local business in his speech. He urged creditors to help Greece dig out of its mountain of debt and called on young people to stay in the country to spur its economic recovery.

But his broader message extended beyond Athens.

Step-by-step, Mr Obama listed the values of US democracy that he and fellow Democrats in the United States have accused Trump of violating during his presidential campaign, an implicit call on his successor to change course.

In the same way that democracies are based on the peaceful resolution of disagreements within society, so cooperation is the best way to resolve conflicts with nations, he said.

Mr Obama referenced how diplomacy shut down Iran's nuclear weapons scheme and opened relations with Cuba.He noted how US democracy had evolved to provide rights to women, African Americans, people with disabilities, and the gay community.

Trump has been criticised for his attitudes toward women and for making fun of a disabled reporter. He has pledged to ban Muslims temporarily from entering the United States and to deport undocumented immigrants who are living in the country illegally.

"Democracy is stronger than organisations like ISIS," he said, using one of the names for Islamic State.

Mr Obama highlighted the importance of a free press to expose injustice. Mr Trump banned certain news outlets from his campaign events for writing stories he did not like. The Obama administration has been criticised for its record on press freedom as well, particularly for prosecuting government sources who leak information to journalists.