Former President Barack Obama spoke about the nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd for the first time on camera in a speech on Wednesday.
Obama addressed the nation in a speech that streamed live on his website and urged everyone to have hope despite such difficult times. He started by specifically speaking to the families that have been affected by police violence.
"Please know that Michelle and I, and the nation grieve with you, hold you in our prayers," he said. "We're committed to the fight of creating a more just nation in the memory of your sons and daughters."
He said that as tragic as recent incidents have been, it's also brought an incredible opportunity for people to be awakened to inequality and injustice. He said he was most hopeful when seeing young people mobilizing given that historically, so much progress has been made by young people, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez and more.
"I just see what's happening with young people across the country, the talent and sophistication they're displaying," he said. "It makes me feel optimistic. It makes me feel like things are going to get better."
He also had a message for young people of color.
"I want to speak directly to the young men and women of color in this country who have witnessed too much violence and too much death… I want you to know that you matter," he said. "I want you to know that your lives matter. That your dreams matter. ... I hope that you also feel hopeful even though you might feel angry. ... You have the power to make things better. ... You've communicated a sense of energy."
"There is a change in mindset that's taking place -- a greater recognition that we can do better," he added.
The speech was part of Obama's My Brother's Keeper Alliance Town Hall series. The former president launched My Brother's Keeper Alliance in 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color and to ensure all youth can reach their full potential.
On Monday, Obama wrote an essay published by Medium addressing the nationwide protests following the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis man who died after former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Titled "How to Make This Moment the Turning Point for Real Change," Obama said that despite such difficult times, he has hope when he sees young activists fighting for change.
"Ultimately, it's going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times," he wrote.
He urged those protesting to have specific demands for criminal justice and police reform, which should be tailored to fit different communities.
"Eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices -- and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands," he wrote. "So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn't between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform."
Obama also released a statement about Floyd's death on May 29, calling on everyone regardless of race as well as members of law enforcement to work together to fight systemic racism.
"It's natural to wish for life 'to just get back to normal' as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us," the statement reads in part. "But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly 'normal' -- whether it's while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park."
"This shouldn't be 'normal' in 2020 America," he continued. "It can't be 'normal.' If we want our children to grow up in a nation that lives up to its highest ideals, we can and must be better."
For more on celebrities like Jamie Foxx, Nick Cannon, Keke Palmer, Ariana Grande, Cole Sprouse and Halsey taking to the streets to protest, watch the video below: