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Obama in Berlin: ‘We can’t hide behind a wall’

Former President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a discussion at the German Protestant Kirchentag in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on May 25. (Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters)

Former President Barack Obama seemed to take a subtle swipe at his successor Thursday, telling a Berlin audience that the world cannot “hide behind a wall” — an apparent reference to President Trump’s signature campaign promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Obama was in Germany for Kirchentag, a conference affiliated with the Protestant church that he attended at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She was beside him as he spoke from an outdoor stage in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

Preaching against isolationist policies, Obama said, “In this new world we live in, we can’t isolate ourselves. We can’t hide behind a wall.”

He also appeared to address the populist, anti-immigration movement that has loomed in European elections, most recently in Marine Le Pen’s unsuccessful presidential bid in France. In that contest, Obama endorsed centrist Emmanuel Macron, who won, while Trump had signaled some support for Le Pen.

“This order that has been created has to be changed, it has to be updated, it has to be continually renewed,” Obama said. “Because there’s a competing narrative of fear, and xenophobia, and nationalism, and intolerance and antidemocratic trends.”

“And so, when I think about my role when I was president, but also now as a citizen of the United States and part of the world community, what I think is most important is we rally around those values and ideals that are best, and we have to push back against those trends.”

Elsewhere in the speech, Obama touted his signature post-presidency initiative: encouraging political involvement among young people.

“I feel very optimistic about our futures, but it’s ultimately going to be up to young people today,” he said, “and my job now is to help them take it the next step.”


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