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Obama: ‘You cannot sit back and wait for a savior’

Former President Obama aimed sharp criticism at President Trump in a speech at the University of Illinois, where he also called on Democrats to vote in the midterm elections and warned that the biggest threat to democracy is indifference.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to former President Obama's remarks today to students at the University of Illinois.

    From pointed criticism on the current state of politics, to calling for more common ground, one message was consistent, urging people to vote.

  • Former President Barack Obama:

    I'm here today because this is one of those pivotal moments when every one of us, as citizens of the United States, need to determine just who it is that we are, just what it is that we stand for.

    And, as a fellow citizen — not as an ex-president, but as a fellow citizen — I'm here to deliver a simple message, and that is that you need to vote, because our democracy depends on it.

    But over the past few decades, the politics of division and resentment and paranoia has unfortunately found a home in the Republican Party.

    They're undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican Party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against communism. And now they're cozying up to the former head of the KGB.

    And, by the way, the claim that everything will turn out OK because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren't following the president's orders…

    (LAUGHTER)

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Former President Barack Obama:

    That is not a check. I'm being serious here.

    That's not how our democracy's supposed to work. They're not doing us a service by actively promoting 90 percent of the crazy stuff that's coming out of this White House, and then saying, don't worry, we're preventing the other 10 percent.

    It should not be a partisan issue to say that we do not pressure the attorney general or the FBI to use the criminal justice system as a cudgel to punish our political opponents..

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Former President Barack Obama:

    We're supposed to stand up to discrimination, and we're sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Former President Barack Obama:

    How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?

    You cannot sit back and wait for a savior. You can't opt out because you don't feel sufficiently inspired by this or that particular candidate. This is not a rock concert. This is not Coachella.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Former President Barack Obama:

    We don't need a messiah.

    All we need are decent, honest, hardworking people who are accountable and who have America's best interests at heart.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Former President Barack Obama:

    And they'll step up and they'll join our government, and they will make things better, if they have support.

    One election will not fix everything that needs to be fixed. But it will be a start. And you have to start

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