Change Requires Listening

...change requires more than just speaking out -- it requires listening, as well. In particular, it requires listening to those with whom you disagree, and being prepared to compromise... you need allies in a democracy. That's just the way it is. It can be frustrating and it can be slow. But history teaches us that the alternative to democracy is always worse. That's not just true in this country. It’s not a black or white thing. Go to any country where the give and take of democracy has been repealed by one-party rule, and I will show you a country that does not work.

And democracy requires compromise, even when you are 100 percent right. This is hard to explain sometimes. You can be completely right, and you still are going to have to engage folks who disagree with you. If you think that the only way forward is to be as uncompromising as possible, you will feel good about yourself, you will enjoy a certain moral purity, but you’re not going to get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want long enough, you will eventually think the whole system is rigged. And that will lead to more cynicism, and less participation, and a downward spiral of more injustice and more anger and more despair. And that's never been the source of our progress. That's how we cheat ourselves of progress.

We remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory, the power of his letter from a Birmingham jail, the marches he led. But he also sat down with President Johnson in the Oval Office to try and get a Civil Rights Act and a Voting Rights Act passed. And those two seminal bills were not perfect -- just like the Emancipation Proclamation was a war document as much as it was some clarion call for freedom. Those mileposts of our progress were not perfect. They did not make up for centuries of slavery or Jim Crow or eliminate racism or provide for 40 acres and a mule. But they made things better. And you know what, I will take better every time. I always tell my staff -- better is good, because you consolidate your gains and then you move on to the next fight from a stronger position.


Another Howard alum, Zora Neale Hurston, once said -- this is a good quote here: “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person.” Think about that. That’s why our democracy gives us a process designed for us to settle our disputes with argument and ideas and votes instead of violence and simple majority rule.


Folksonomies: politics rhetoric debate

/law, govt and politics/legal issues/civil rights (0.532998)
/law, govt and politics/politics/elections (0.499506)
/art and entertainment/music/music genres/easy listening (0.408229)

Zora Neale Hurston (0.976938 (positive:0.200669)), certain moral purity (0.972406 (positive:0.503543)), simple majority rule (0.934691 (negative:-0.714107)), Civil Rights Act (0.930068 (neutral:0.000000)), Voting Rights Act (0.928405 (neutral:0.000000)), 40 acres and a mule (0.927595 (negative:-0.632033)), democracy (0.894639 (negative:-0.234347)), white thing (0.786180 (negative:-0.366245)), downward spiral (0.770365 (negative:-0.670554)), one-party rule (0.762680 (negative:-0.265535)), Emancipation Proclamation (0.762443 (neutral:0.000000)), seminal bills (0.751960 (negative:-0.405551)), Howard alum (0.751409 (neutral:0.000000)), Birmingham jail (0.751361 (negative:-0.233941)), Dr. King (0.746259 (neutral:0.000000)), Oval Office (0.741328 (neutral:0.000000)), war document (0.740847 (neutral:0.000000)), Jim Crow (0.738053 (negative:-0.632033)), President Johnson (0.737711 (neutral:0.000000)), stronger position (0.735167 (positive:0.315322)), good quote (0.730142 (positive:0.452047)), progress (0.647570 (negative:-0.229335)), country (0.634255 (negative:-0.291519)), way (0.600289 (positive:0.500954)), Listening (0.579436 (positive:0.296602)), compromise (0.575472 (positive:0.254648)), mileposts (0.573169 (negative:-0.218087)), cynicism (0.559609 (negative:-0.296173)), allies (0.555712 (neutral:0.000000)), folks (0.553735 (negative:-0.350373))

Zora Neale Hurston:Person (0.816610 (positive:0.200669)), Voting Rights Act:FieldTerminology (0.724918 (neutral:0.000000)), Jim Crow:Person (0.678001 (negative:-0.632033)), Birmingham:City (0.663785 (negative:-0.233941)), Dr. King:Person (0.653950 (neutral:0.000000)), President Johnson:Person (0.652445 (neutral:0.000000)), Oval Office:Organization (0.641548 (neutral:0.000000)), Civil Rights:FieldTerminology (0.639041 (neutral:0.000000)), Howard:Person (0.626147 (neutral:0.000000)), 100 percent:Quantity (0.626147 (neutral:0.000000)), 40 acres:Quantity (0.626147 (neutral:0.000000))

Emancipation Proclamation (0.989282): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Lyndon B. Johnson (0.976390): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago | musicBrainz
Rights (0.753607): dbpedia | freebase
Voting Rights Act (0.752457): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Zora Neale Hurston (0.751071): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago
Majority (0.741646): dbpedia | freebase
Slavery in the United States (0.729323): dbpedia | freebase
Human rights (0.715782): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago

 Remarks by the President at Howard University Commencement Ceremony
Proceedings of Meetings and Symposia>Speech:  Obama, Barack (May 07, 2016), Remarks by the President at Howard University Commencement Ceremony, Howard University, Washington, D.C., Retrieved on 2016-05-10
  • Source Material []