Obama: 'I Had to Live Through Controversies Like the Notion I Was Trying to Kill Christmas'

Susan Jones | December 22, 2016 | 6:04am EST
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President Obama speaks to NPR. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - In a recent discussion about political correctness and whether it has gone too far, President Barack Obama said it's a "tricky issue," because "the definition of political correctness is all over the map."

At one point in his pre-vacation interview with NPR, Obama used himself as an example: "I had to live through controversies like the notion that I was trying to kill Christmas. Right? Well, where'd that come from?

"Well, I bet, you know, well, he said happy holidays instead of merry Christmas. So, that, you know, that must be evidence of him either not being a Christian or not caring about Christmas. It -- it sounds funny now, but you'll have entire debates in conservative circles around that.

"So, it cuts both ways and my advice to young people and my advice to all of us as citizens is to be able to distinguish between being courteous and being thoughtful and thinking about how words affect other people and not demonizing others versus having legitimate political debates and disagreements."

Obama told NPR's Steve Inskeep that it's a good for people to express "broad disapproval" when they hear racial epithets or derogatory words.

"And when you use words like that, you're reinforcing people feeling like they're outsiders and less than other Americans. I don't consider that political correctness, I consider that good manners..."

Obama also warned against "hypersensitivity" that prevents people from expressing their opinions out of fear that they'll be called racist:

"If sort of our social discourse and our political discourse becomes like walking on eggshells so that if somebody says, you know what, I'm not sure affirmative action is the right way to solve racial problems in this country -- and they're -- somebody's immediately accused of being racist. Well, then, I think you have a point (that political correctness has gone too far) although I happen to approve of affirmative action. But I think that I can have a polite dialogue with somebody who -- who differs from me on that issue."

Obama shared his advice to "progressives like myself."

"And this is advice I give my own daughters who are about to head off to college -- is don't go around just looking for insults. You're -- you're tough.

"If somebody says something you don't agree with, just, you know, engage them on their ideas, but you don't have to feel that somehow because you're a black woman that you're being assaulted. But speak up for yourself. And if you hear somebody saying something that's insulting, feel free to say to -- to that guy, you know what, you're rude or you're ignorant and take them on.

"But -- but the -- the thing that I want to emphasize here though is the irony in this debate is oftentimes you'll hear somebody like a Rush Limbaugh or other conservative commentators, or, you know -- you know, radio you know shock jocks or some conservative politicians who -- who are very quick to jump on evidence of progressives being quote unquote 'politically correct,' but who are constantly aggrieved and hypersensitive about the things they care about and are continually feeding this sense of victimization and that they're being subject to reverse discrimination."

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