In an interview that aired Monday, President Barack Obama told Steve Inskeep of NPR that no matter what path President-elect Donald Trump decides to take on immigration, the country’s demographics have “inevitably” changed.
“If you stopped all immigration today, just by virtue of birth rates, this is going to be a browner country,” Obama said. “And if we’re not thinking right now about how we make sure that next generation is getting a good education and are instilled with a common creed and the values that make America so special and are cared for and nurtured and loved the way every American child is treated, then we’re not going to be as successful.”
He did not describe what he thought would constitute as the “common creed” and “values that make America so special.”
Giving credit to himself, Obama also went on to say that he felt like he inherited the country at a bad time, stating:
“[W]hen the economy’s not doing well some other tensions get laid bare — changing attitudes about sexual orientation, and about race, and about the nature of families. And all of this has been amped up by the revolution in information, throwing through social media and the Internet. And so it’s a big dose. It’s been a lot of stuff that’s been coming at people really quickly, and it’s made folks anxious.”
He added that the nation is “long overdue” for a national conversation about race.
“All these smartphones suddenly taking pictures are not documenting a suddenly worsening relationship between the African-American community and the police,” Obama told Inskeep. “They are recording what has been a long-standing tension and the sense on the part of police that they’re put in a very difficult situation of trying to manage law enforcement in poor communities where guns are easily accessible, the African-American community being rightly convinced that there is a long history of racial bias in our criminal justice system.”
Obama continued, “And as painful as it is, that conversation is long overdue. So, my feeling is that if everybody takes a breath, and if we can structure a conversation that is less about how somebody else is trying to take advantage of me, and structure the conversation around how can we work together to solve problems that makes everybody better off, that America can emerge stronger.”
“But that requires leadership. It requires citizenship. It requires all of us doing self-reflection at the same time as we’re fighting on behalf of the things that we care deeply about,” he said.
“I can say, and I can demonstrate, I can document that the country is a lot better off now than it was when I took office in almost every dimension,” he added.
He gave no actual statistics to back up his remarks.
Obama then gave the country — and himself — some constructive criticism. “But what I can also say is that we could be doing even better. There are times where I reflect and ask myself, ‘Is there’s something else I could have done, something that I could have said slightly differently that would have led to additional progress and less polarization?’ And I’ll probably, you know, as I reflect on my presidency, once I’m out of just the day-to-day scrum of this thing, I’m sure I’ll come up with a whole bunch of things to add to my list. But I think all of us have to do that.”