President Obama told students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa that America’s support of apartheid moved him to engage in politics. I can hear his critics’ heads exploding. I must admit, I was taken aback to some degree by President Obama’s admission, since we are still grappling with racism in some areas in the U.S., such as the prison system, that continues to jail black men at a higher rate for less serious crimes. Hey, how about the civil rights struggle in the U.S. in the 1960s?
“I actually took my first step in the political life because of South Africa,” Obama said. He added, “Like many young people I thought that cynicism, a certain ironic detachment, was a sign of wisdom and sophistication. But then I learned what was happening here in South Africa.”
“I knew that while brave people were imprisoned just off these shores, on Robben Island, my own government in the United States was not standing on their side. And that’s why I got involved in what was known as the divestment movement in the United States. It was the first time I ever attached myself to a cause,” Obama said.