In a speech this week, former President Barack Obama called on Americans to never stop tending the “garden of democracy,” because complacency was responsible for the rise of Hitler and the Nazis.
You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens,” Obama said at the Economic Club of Chicago on Tuesday.
“Now, presume there was a ballroom here in Vienna in the late 1920s or ’30s that looked and seemed as if it, filled with the music and art and literature that was emerging, would continue into perpetuity,” he continued. “And then 60 million people died. An entire world was plunged into chaos. So you got to pay attention — and vote.”
Obama drew from other examples of history to make his point.
“FDR is one of my political heroes. In my mind, the second greatest president after Lincoln. … But he interned a bunch of loyal Japanese Americans during World War II. That was a threat to our institutions,” Obama said. “There have been periods in our history where censorship was considered okay. We had the McCarthy era. We had a President who had to resign prior to impeachment because he was undermining rule of law. At every juncture, we’ve had to wrestle with big problems.”
Obama also alluded to President Trump’s attacks on the free press.
“During my presidency, the press often drove me nuts. There were times where I thought reporters were ill-informed. There were times where they didn’t actually get the story right. But what I understood was that principle of the free press was vital, and that, as President, part of my job was to make sure that that was maintained.”
Video of Obama’s comments were uploaded to Facebook, which can be watched below:
Featured image via Lacy Landre (Flickr)