Barack Obama warns against taking democracy for granted

Oslo Business Forum Oslo Business Forum.Hellerudsletta. The former US President Barack Obama.Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB scanpix

We can’t assume that democracy will last forever, we must fight for it ” said Barack Obama, who is concerned about policies based on nationalism and racism.


The former US President talked for over an hour to a gathering of about 3,000 business leaders and others attending the Oslo Business Forum outside Oslo on Wednesday.Although the theme was technology, leadership and sustainability, he also addressed political developments in the West.

He believes leaders in the United States and Europe were overwhelmed by the positive economic developments of the late 1990s and early 2000s. But globalisation has made many feel that they have fallen behind, Obama warned.

“They feel worried about the changes and look for an old type of policy, based on tribes, races or nationalism,” he said.

“We can not assume that democracy will last forever. We must fight for it, and cultivate it.

Both hope and hatred

He pointed out that the internet, which was seen as a positive opportunity to bring the world together, has a downside.

“What we have learned in recent years is that the same power that can be used to spread messages of hope can also be used to spread hatred.’’

Obama believes that business leaders must look beyond the “four corners of the results sheet.” They can not only care about the leaders, but must relate to the changes in society.

“It is not the contractor’s task to solve these problems.But they must not forget that they are dependent on the community functioning well. If not, you will get protectionism and authoritarian tendencies in politics.’’

At this point in his speech, Obama didn’t refer to Executive Order ‘National Defense Resources Preparedness’ signed by himself in March 2012 without the necessity of a vote, wherein the United States federal government at any Presidents whim may take control of all “Civil transportation” , ‘’all forms of energy including petroleum, gas (both natural and manufactured), electricity, solid fuels (including all forms of coal, coke, coal chemicals, coal liquification, and coal gasification), solar, wind, other types of renewable energy, atomic energy, and the production, conservation,use,control,and distribution (including pipelines) of all of these forms of energy…Farm equipment, Fertilizer, Food resources, Food resource facilities, Health resources, Strategic and critical materials, and Water resources.”

Pointing to the welfare state

Obama said h believes it becomes important to compensate for some of the difficulties globalisation creates.

“Norway has done this well. It requires a welfare state that is driven in a good and efficient way’’ he said.

Moreover, it is important to ensure that investments are spread out and in many places, so there is no imbalance, the former president believes.

A soft spot for Norway

Obama was warmly welcomed when he was on stage at the conference center at Hellerudsletta outside Oslo. The participants had paid several thousand kroner to see him, and some had paid extra for the opportunity to handshake and take a selfie with him.

He acknowledged the reception by giving some praise about the country he visited, declaring that he was ‘’weak for Norway.’’

“I love Norway and Norwegians.When I was in the White House, and there was a problem, I told the staff ‘’if only Norwegians were in charge, everything would be alright. Perhaps we should put Norwegians in charge to lead everything’’ Obama said.


© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today