fb

Obama and active citizenship: why his Mandela address matters

By: Aaron X. Smith, Temple University

File 20180716 44073 1fdptj1.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Former US president Barack Obama delivers a speech in Kenya ahead of his visit to South Africa.
Dai Kurokawa/EPA

 

Former US President Barack Obama’s Nelson Mandela Annual lecture in honour of the centennial commemoration of Mandela’s birth is slated to be his most consequential address since leaving office in January 2017. The title of the address is billed as, “Renewing the Mandela Legacy and Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World”.

Given the state of leadership in the world, and the subject matter he’s chosen, the address is expected to be far more than just another political speech.

As we know, speeches can be much more than just an oral presentation. The timing, theme and energetic thrust of a political speech, if delivered through the spirit of a capable presenter, can have a major impact. It can alter international policy. Think here of Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. A speech can also promote and unleash international intolerance. Here Adolf Hitler’s speech at Munich on July 28, 1922 comes to mind.

This rhetorical reality requires something important from the speaker. To make history, define the present, and help shape the future with their words they need to be able to understand their personal and representational place in time and space.

My research for the past 11 years has yielded significant evidence that Obama is considerably capable of meeting the standards of a formidable public speaker. His rhetorical flexibility can be viewed as he seamlessly transitioned from a humorous monologue at the annual White House correspondence dinner into a serious display of gratitude for the men and women in journalism as he closed his address. Or, his ability to pivot into serious campaign fundraiser rhetoric shortly after crooning some classic Al Greene song.

There’s particular anticipation for the Johannesburg speech because it’s the first time he’s delivering a major address without the constraints of the title of president. The 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture therefore marks the first time many people will get the opportunity to witness Obama speaking, sans any current political position or known political aspirations.

My Obama story

My interest in the power and potential of Obama’s rhetoric is both personal and professional. I have been studying and writing about his speeches for over a decade, convinced that his voice is one of the most important of our generation.

My initial analysis of Obama’s rhetorical capabilities led to a doctoral dissertation titled, “Black Skin, White House, the rhetoric and symbolism of the first African American President of the United States”.

In this text I explained:

I chose to examine the phenomena surrounding Obama’s rhetoric because he was and is a person of international consequence, his political prominence nationally is arguably unparalleled, and he is widely heralded for his effective rhetorical capabilities.

Obama, like few other historical figures, has successfully separated time with his achievement of becoming the first African American President of the United States. This glass ceiling cannot be reconstructed and shattered again. There will forever be the era before Obama and the periods that follow.

Only time will tell how significantly the Obama presidency changed history. Most peculiar perhaps will be the shifting political perceptions of those who elected Obama as part of their first presidential voting experience. There are also millions of young people throughout the world who have been impacted by the iconography of black family excellence which the Obama’s consistently exuded with poise, depth and intelligence.

In the proverbial pantheon of great orators, I believe that he is just one tier below the greatest rhetoricians on record. For example, Reverend King and Mandela are top tier speakers, then Obama is on the level just below these historic communicators.

Africa’s future

Obama is making his speech in a changing world dominated by the often outrageous utterances of his successor, US President Donald Trump. Few recent political changes have garnered the level of attention as the seemingly stark contrast between Obama and Trump.

People throughout the world may be eagerly awaiting Obama’s perspective on American politics today. That’s of course whether or not he will address the incumbent directly.

The ripple effect of American political engagement continues to have global impacts. The current international political climate has created an increased hunger for a sincere and tangible revival of the legacy of activism in pursuit of justice. This need comes tempered with a genuine appreciation for peace and reconciliation which Mandela so powerfully embodied.

It’s also significant that Obama will deliver the lecture on African soil. Africa is the home of Obama’s deceased father whose impact was described in the former president’s powerful memoir titled, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance”.

The visit to South Africa will mark Obama’s continued efforts to live out those dreams while also endeavouring to realise the dreams of Mandela.

Not only is this likely to feature Obama’s lecture, but we are likely to be introduced to the next phase of Obama’s leadership.

Pessimists may doubt the potential positive effects of inspirational rhetoric. They may also be sceptical of the power of the Nelson Mandela Foundation to encourage greater global reconciliation and positive political engagement in the tradition of the foundation’s namesake. To them I humbly submit that they pay close attention to Obama’s address.

I also urge them to remember Mandela’s words when he walked out a free man on 11 February 1990, after 27 years locked up in apartheid’s prisons. He cited our obligation to future generations to speak and act boldly:

The ConversationWe have waited too long for our freedom. We can no longer wait. Now is the time to intensify the struggle on all fronts. To relax our efforts now would be a mistake which generations to come will not be able to forgive.

Aaron X. Smith, Assistant Professor of Africology and African American Studies, Temple University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    Don’t miss out on the latest local news, interviews and competitions.

    More Articles
    Receive the latest news

    Subscribe To Our Newsletter

    THE KAYA 959 APP NOW AVAILABLE

    DOWNLOAD YOURS NOW

    Copyright Notice

    1. COPYRIGHT

    1.1 The contents of this Website, including but not limited to its compilation and arrangement, is the exclusive property of Kaya 959, alternatively the suppliers of content to Kaya 959, and accordingly remain protected by South African and International Copyright and Trademark laws.

    1.2 Any person accessing this Website, may not, save for downloading one copy for their personal computers and solely for their private and non-commercial use :

    1.2.1 Copy, disseminate, distribute, advertise, publish, adapt, modify or in any way reproduce the contents of this website for commercial purposes, unless this notice and any disclaimer attached thereto is published in its entirety, or unless the permission of Kaya 959 is obtained in writing.

    Privacy Policy

    THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT FORMS PART OF KAYA 959’S TERMS OF USE POLICY. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH ANY TERM OF THIS PRIVACY STATEMENT, YOU MUST CEASE YOUR ACCESS OF THIS WEBSITE IMMEDIATELY. 

    POPIA ActTo promote the protection of personal information processed by public and private bodies; to introduce certain conditions so as to establish minimum requirements for the processing of personal information; to provide for the establishment of an Information Regulator to exercise certain powers and to perform certain duties and functions in terms of this Act and the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2000; to provide for the issuing of codes of conduct; to provide for the rights of persons regarding unsolicited electronic communications and automated decision making; to regulate the flow of personal information across the borders of the Republic; and to provide for matters connected therewith.

    RECOGNISING THAT—

    • section 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996, provides that everyone has the right to privacy;
    • the right to privacy includes a right to protection against the unlawful collection, retention, dissemination and use of personal information;
    • the State must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights;

    AND BEARING IN MIND THAT—

    • consonant with the constitutional values of democracy and openness, the need for economic and social progress, within the framework of the information society, requires the removal of unnecessary impediments to the free flow of information, including personal information;

    AND IN ORDER TO—

    • regulate, in harmony with international standards, the processing of personal information by public and private bodies in a manner that gives effect to the right to privacy subject to justifiable limitations that are aimed at protecting other rights and important interests,
    1. Definitions and Interpretation

    1.1.“Personal Information” means information relating to an identifiable, living, natural person and where it is applicable, identifiable, existing juristic person, including all information as defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013. 

    1.2  Parliament assented to POPIA on 19 November 2013. The commencement date of section 1Part A of Chapter 5section 112 and section 113 was 11 April 2014. The commencement date of the other sections was 1 July 2020 (with the exception of section 110 and 114(4). The President of South Africa has proclaimed the POPI commencement date to be 1 July 2020.

     
    1.3. “Processing” means the creation, generation, communication, storage, destruction of personal information as more fully defined in the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013.  

    1.4. “You” or the “user” means any person who accesses and browses this website for any purpose. 

    1.4. “Website” means the website of the KAYA 959 at URL www.kaya959.co.za or such other URL as KAYA 959 may choose from time to time.   

    1. Status and Amendments

    2.1. KAYA 959 respects your privacy. This privacy policy statement sets out KAYA 959’s information gathering and dissemination practices in respect of the Website. 

    2.2. This Privacy Policy governs the processing of personal information provided to KAYA 959 through your use of the Website. 

    2.3. Please note that, due to legal and other developments, KAYA 959 may amend these terms and conditions from time to time.  

    1. Processing of Personal Information

    3.1. By providing your personal information to KAYA 959 you acknowledge that it has been collected directly from you and consent to its processing by KAYA 959. 

    3.2. Where you submit Personal Information (such as name, address, telephone number and email address) via the website (e.g. through completing any online form) the following principles are observed in the processing of that information: 

    3.2.1. KAYA 959 will only collect personal information for a purpose consistent with the purpose for which it is required. The specific purpose for which information is 
    collected will be apparent from the context in which it is requested. 

    3.2.2. KAYA 959 will only process personal information in a manner that is adequate, relevant and not excessive in the context of the purpose for which it is processed. 

    3.2.3. Personal information will only be processed for a purpose compatible with that for which it was collected, unless you have agreed to an alternative purpose in writing or KAYA 959 is permitted in terms of national legislation of general application dealing primarily with the protection of personal information. 

    3.2.4. KAYA 959 will keep records of all personal Information collected and the specific purpose for which it was collected for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.5. KAYA 959 will not disclose any personal information relating to you to any third party unless your prior written agreement is obtained or KAYA 959 is required to do so by law. 

    3.2.6. If personal information is released with your consent KAYA 959 will retain a record of the information released, the third party to which it was released, the reason for the release and the date of release, for a period of 1 (one) year from the date on which it was last used. 

    3.2.7. KAYA 959 will destroy or delete any personal information that is no longer needed by KAYA 959 for the purpose it was initially collected, or subsequently processed. 

    3.3. Note that, as permitted by the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act 25 of 2002, KAYA 959 may use personal information collected to compile profiles for statistical purposes. No information contained in the profiles or statistics will be able to be linked to any specific user.    

    1. Collection of anonymous data

    4.1. KAYA 959 may use standard technology to collect information about the use of this website. This technology is not able to identify individual users but simply allows KAYA 959 to collect statistics. 

    4.2. KAYA 959 may utilise temporary or session cookies to keep track of users’ browsing habits. A cookie is a small file that is placed on your hard drive in order to keep a record of your interaction with this website and facilitate user convenience. 

    4.2.1. Cookies by themselves will not be used to identify users personally but may be used to compile identified statistics relating to use of services offered or to provide KAYA 959 with feedback on the performance of this website. 

    4.2.2. The following classes of information may be collected in respect of users who have enabled cookies: 

    4.2.2.1. The browser software used; 

    4.2.2.2. IP address; 

    4.2.2.3. Date and time of activities while visiting the website; 

    4.2.2.4. URLs of internal pages visited; and 

    4.2.2.5. referrers. 

    4.3. If you do not wish cookies to be employed to customize your interaction with this website it is possible to alter the manner in which your browser handles cookies. Please note that, if this is done, certain services on this website may not be available. 

    1. Security

    5.1. KAYA 959 takes reasonable measures to ensure the security and integrity of information submitted to or collected by this website, but cannot under any circumstances be held liable for any loss or other damage sustained by you as a result of unlawful access to or dissemination of any personal information by a third party. 

    1. Links to other websites

    6.1. KAYA 959 has no control over and accepts no responsibility for the privacy practices of any third party websites to which hyperlinks may have been provided and KAYA 959 strongly recommends that you review the privacy policy of any website you visit before using it further. 

    1. Queries

    7.1. If you have any queries about this privacy policy please contact us by emailing [email protected] 

    Competition Terms and Conditions

    • The competitions are open to all persons over the age of 18 years; except directors, partners, employees, agents, service providers, and consultants of Kaya 959, the sponsor and all its subsidiaries and its holding company, if any, as well as all spouses, life partners, parents, children, siblings, business partners and associates of such persons.

    • The outcome of the competition is subject to the decision of the judge/presenter, whose decision is final and no negotiation will be entered into thereafter. Neither Kaya 959, sponsors nor their agents will be held responsible or answerable to any dispute arising from the competition or prize awards.

    • Participants/listeners enter or take part in competitions at their own risk and Kaya 959 bears no responsibility for any loss, damage or harm suffered as a result of participation in any of Kaya 959 competition.

    • One listener is entitled to winning one prize in a period of 3 months. Kaya 959 reserves the right not to award a prize if the listener has won a prize prior during the 3 month window period. This also applies to listeners who provide family or friend’s contact details.

    • Kaya 959 reserves the right to redistribute all unclaimed prizes if not claimed after 3 months after being given away On Air or on the website.

    • Prizes are not transferable and may not be exchanged for cash.

    • Finalists will forfeit their participation in the competition if they fail to attend the draws.

    • The competition will run during the period advertised on Kaya 959; entries received outside of the competition period will not be considered for the competition draw.

    • Kaya 959 and their sponsors reserve the right to cancel, modify or amend the competition at any time if deemed necessary in their opinion, or if circumstances arise outside of their control.

    • By entering the competition, entrants agree to accept these rules and to be bound by them.