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Former President Obama speaking at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg. Photo: Marco Longari/AFP/Getty Images

Addressing a huge crowd in South Africa on the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's birth, former President Barack Obama offered some guidance for what he described as the "strange and uncertain times" in which we live.

"On Madiba’s 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads. A moment in time in which two very different visions of humanity’s future compete for the hearts and the minds of citizens around the world."
— Former President Barack Obama

A word of advice: Amending a quote by Mandela, Obama said we have an obligation not just to protest in the name of universal freedom, but "to build," "to innovate," and to "figure out how we're going to close this widening chasm of inequality."

Other highlights:

  • On authoritarianism: "Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly. Whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained — the form of it — but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning. In the West, you've got far-right parties that oftentimes are based not just on platforms of protectionism and closed borders, but on barely hidden racial nationalism."
  • On inequality: "We’re going to have to fight harder to reduce inequality among all people. I don’t believe in economic determinism. Human beings don’t live on bread alone. But they need bread."
  • On the future: "I believe in Nelson Mandela's vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King ... I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy built on the premise that all people are created equal."
  • On globalization: "We’re stuck with the fact that populations live closer together and people are going to move. The solutions to challenges like climate change and mass immigration are systems that move toward more international cooperation. Not less."
  • On the media: "The free press is under attack. Censorship and state control of media is on the rise. Social media, once seen as a mechanism to promote knowledge and understanding... has proved just as effective promoting hatred and paranoia and propaganda and conspiracy theories."
  • On our common humanity: "You can be proud of your heritage without denigrating others of a different heritage. In fact, it makes me think you're a little insecure about your own heritage if you're constantly putting other people down. ... Just ask the French team that just won the World Cup. Not all of those folks look like Gauls to me. But they’re French.”

Go deeper

Updated 24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Senate action on stimulus bill continues as Dems reach deal on jobless aid

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democratic leaders struck an agreement with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) on emergency unemployment insurance late Friday, clearing the way for Senate action on President Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package to resume after an hours-long delay.

The state of play: The Senate will now work through votes on a series of amendments that are expected to last overnight into early Saturday morning.

Capitol review panel recommends more police, mobile fencing

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A panel appointed by Congress to review security measures at the Capitol is recommending several changes, including mobile fencing and a bigger Capitol police force, to safeguard the area after a riotous mob breached the building on Jan. 6.

Why it matters: Law enforcement officials have warned there could be new plots to attack the area and target lawmakers, including during a speech President Biden is expected to give to a joint session of Congress.

Financial fallout from the Texas deep freeze

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Texas has thawed out after an Arctic freeze last month threw the state into a power crisis. But the financial turmoil from power grid shock is just starting to take shape.

Why it matters: In total, electricity companies are billions of dollars short on the post-storm payments they now owe to the state's grid operator. There's no clear path for how they will pay — something being watched closely across the country as extreme weather events become more common.