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Obama criticizes coronavirus response, gives advice to college graduates

Former President Barack Obama presented a virtual commencement address to graduates of historically black colleges Saturday, the first of two such addresses delivered Satureday, Image via Chase/YouTube
Former President Barack Obama presented a virtual commencement address to graduates of historically black colleges Saturday, the first of two such addresses delivered Satureday, Image via Chase/YouTube

May 16 (UPI) -- Former President Barack Obama criticized the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, saying "folks in charge don't always know what they're doing," during two virtual commencements.

On Saturday, the 44th president first spoke during a ceremony for historically black colleges and universities in the afternoon, then during the "Graduate Together" special hosted by NBA star LeBron James.

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He criticized the current administration without name his successor, President Donald Trump.

"You know, all those adults that you used to think were in charge and knew what they were doing, turns out they don't have all the answers," he said during the latter event. "A lot of them aren't even asking the right questions."

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At the other event he said: "This pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they're doing. A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge. If the world is going to get better, it's going to be up to you," he added.

Chase's "Show Me Your Walk HBCU Edition" was a celebration specifically for the more than 27,000 graduates of historically black colleges and universities.

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"Even if half this semester was spent at Zoom University, you've earned this moment. You should be very proud," Obama said.

The streaming event honored students 78 schools and featured the participation of more than a dozen black leaders, sports figures, musicians and business people. Comedian Kevin Hart hosted.

Obama's speech also referenced the February shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia.

He referenced the disproportionate impact coronavirus has had on black communities, exposing existing inequities in society.

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He also called on the new generation of graduates to step up and help.

"More than anything, this pandemic is fully, finally pulling back the curtain on the idea that the people in charge know what they're doing. A lot of them aren't even pretending to be in charge. It's up to you to make things better," Obama said.

He closed his address with three pieces of advice for graduates.

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He urged them to ground themselves with "real people" and grassroots movements rather than engaging solely in online activism. find allies in common cause.

Finally, he said, as HBCU graduates, "You're all role models now, whether you like it or not." Graduates' inactions -- or inactions -- will speak volumes.

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"You're the folks we've been waiting for to come along."

In addition to Obama, comedian/actor Steve Harvey, Chase Consumer Banking CEO Thasunda Brown Duckett, National Urban League President Marc Morial, NBA stars Chris Paul and Vince Carter, and actors Debbie Allen and Vivica Fox participated. Musicians Anthony Hamilton, Wyclef Jean and Doug E. Fresh also performed.

The Saturday night speech aired on more than 20 broadcast and cable networks, and streaming platforms. The event was collaboration with The LeBron James Family Foundation, The Entertainment Industry Foundation and XQ Institute.

The 1-hour event featured remarks by Obama, James, the Jonas Brothers, Zendaya, Malala Yousafzai, Pharrell Williams, Olivia Wilde, Ben Platt, Megan Rapinoe, Yara Shahidi and Lena Waithe.

Education goes remote during pandemic

Imani Baucom, a second-grade English teacher at D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, teaches her students remotely from her home in Bowie, Md., on May 4. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

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