Former President Barack Obama speaks during Graduate Together

Former President Barack Obama voiced his support for the rising demands for police reform during his first on-camera remarks since the killing of George Floyd ignited a wave of protests across the US.

Obama gave a virtual speech from his home in Washington DC yesterday, in an online round-table event with his former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and activists from Minneapolis, and his nonprofit group My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. In his statement, Obama reiterated the premise of his Medium post, How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change, arguing that despite ongoing civil unrest he is optimistic about the nation’s future.

“For those who have been talking about protest, just remember that this country was founded on protest — it is called the American Revolution […] Every step of progress in this country, every expansion of freedom, every expression of our deepest ideals have been won through efforts that made the status quo uncomfortable.”

Speaking to young men and women of color, specifically, those who have witnessed violence, Obama offered: “I want you to know that you matter. Your lives matter. Your dreams matter.”

He also urged lawmakers to review police forces and commit to reform. “We need to be clear about where change is going to happen.” Obama addressed arguments of “voting versus protests” and “politics versus civil disobedience,” saying that this is not an either-or scenario. “We have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented.”

You can watch the full event below or skip to the seven-minute-thirty mark to hear Obama’s speech.

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