Obama: 'Laws Alone Won't Be Enough. Hearts Must Change.'

By Susan Jones | January 11, 2017 | 7:11am EST
President Barack Obama waves as he is joined by First Lady Michelle Obama and daughter Malia Obama after giving his presidential farewell address at McCormick Place in Chicago, Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

(CNSNews.com) - In his farewell address Tuesday night, President Obama said he wanted to focus on "the state of our democracy." "His conclusion: "[A]ll of us have more work to do," and "we all have to try harder," especially when it comes to inequality and race relations.

He also told a nation ruled by laws that "laws alone won't be enough. Hearts must change."

Obama, in the final days of his term, admitted that the notion of a post-racial America "was never realistic. Race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society," he said.

"So if we're going to be serious about race going forward, we need to uphold laws against discrimination -- in hiring, and in housing, and in education, and in the criminal justice system. That is what our Constitution and our highest ideals require.

"But laws alone won't be enough. Hearts must change," the president said, as he told minorities, whites, and "native-born" Americans what they should be doing:

For blacks and other minority groups, it means tying our own very real struggles for justice to the challenges that a lot of people in this country face -- not only the refugee, or the immigrant, or the rural poor, or the transgender American, but also the middle-aged white guy who, from the outside, may seem like he's got advantages, but has seen his world upended by economic and cultural and technological change. We have to pay attention, and listen.

For white Americans, it means acknowledging that the effects of slavery and Jim Crow didn't suddenly vanish in the '60s -- that when minority groups voice discontent, they're not just engaging in reverse racism or practicing political correctness. When they wage peaceful protest, they're not demanding special treatment but the equal treatment that our Founders promised.

For native-born Americans, it means reminding ourselves that the stereotypes about immigrants today were said, almost word for word, about the Irish, and Italians, and Poles -- who it was said we're going to destroy the fundamental character of America. And as it turned out, America wasn't weakened by the presence of these newcomers; these newcomers embraced this nation's creed, and this nation was strengthened.

The president continued: "So regardless of the station that we occupy, we all have to try harder. We all have to start with the premise that each of our fellow citizens loves this country just as much as we do; that they value hard work and family just like we do; that their children are just as curious and hopeful and worthy of love as our own."

Obama also warned Americans against retreating into "our own bubbles," and accepting "information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that's out there."

He said, "without some common baseline of facts; without a willingness to admit new information, and concede that your opponent is making a fair point, and that science and reason matter, we'll keep talking past each other, making common ground and compromise impossible."

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