Barack Obama Says Cancel Culture Isn’t Activism

by : Lucy Connolly on :
Barack Obama Says Cancel Culture Isn't ActivismPA Images

Former US President Barack Obama has called out cancel culture, saying the way to make a change isn’t to judge others online.

Obama, 58, was speaking at the Obama Foundation Summit in Illinois, Chicago, on Tuesday (October 29) when he made the comments and expressed his distaste for ‘political wokeness’.


Addressing the crowd, the politician said achieving real change was far more complex than simply being ‘as judgmental as possible’ – a trend accelerated by social media, Obama claimed.

You can watch part of his speech below:


While in conversation with actor and activist Yara Shahidi for a segment titled, What can I do where I am?, Obama made it clear there is more to certain things than meets the eye, stressing nobody is perfect.


He explained:

This idea of purity and that you’re never compromised and you’re always politically woke — you should get over that quickly.

The world is messy. There are ambiguities. People who do really good stuff have flaws. People who you are fighting may love their kids, and share certain things with you.

Obama went on to say that in his opinion, this negative behaviour is not effective when a person is trying to make a positive difference.


He then gave a hypothetical example, saying it would be easy for him to ‘tweet or hashtag’ about how someone on social media didn’t do something right, or used the wrong verb. ‘Then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself,’ he added.

Obama went on to say:

That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.

As well as the former president, the third annual Obama Foundation Summit featured high-profile speakers including former US First Lady Michelle Obama, director Ava Duvernay and Pose star Billy Porter.


Cancel culture, or call-out culture as it’s also known, is a form of public shaming that claims to hold individuals accountable for their actions – by calling attention to behaviour perceived to be problematic, usually on social media.

Barack Obama says cancel culture isn't activismPA Images

It’s become more of a trend in recent years, as social media has become a part of our day-to-day lives and people have more access to celebrities than they used to.

However, it’s only in recent months that people have begun calling it out for being toxic, with activists such as Jameela Jamil recently claiming it’s ‘just about moral superiority’ and is ‘just a new way to attack each other’.


Kevin Hart Says He ‘Doesn’t Give A Sh*t’ About ‘Cancel Culture’

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Hopefully with more big names coming forward, cancel culture will soon become a thing of the past.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: News, Activism, Barack Obama, Cancel Culture, Politics, US News


The Obama Foundation/Twitter and 2 others
  1. The Obama Foundation/Twitter


  2. The Independent


  3. Jameela Jamil/Twitter