President Barack Obama speaks at a 'Town Hall' discussion with British youth at the Royal Horticultural Halls.
Photo by Max Mumby—Indigo via Getty Images
By Michal Addady
April 24, 2016

At a town-hall-style even in London on Saturday, President Obama talked about the role of activism in the political process.

Obama warned that social change comes about very slowly. He specifically mentioned the Black Lives Matter movement, saying that though it’s been successful in bringing attention to certain issues, there are a few problems with the way it’s being conducted.

According to the New York Times, he said that Black Lives Matter activists need to be willing to sit down and actually discuss the issues with those who have the power to enact social change, instead of simply shouting at them from a distance. “Once you’ve highlighted an issue and brought it to people’s attention and shined a spotlight, and elected officials or people who are in a position to start bringing about change are ready to sit down with you,” Obama said, “then you can’t just keep on yelling at them.”

The value of social movements and activism is to get you at the table,” the president said. “Get you in the room, and then to start trying to figure out how is this problem going to be solved.”

He then went on to explain that activists can’t stop short at highlighting a problem, but need to be a part of finding a solution. “You then have a responsibility to prepare an agenda that is achievable, that can institutionalize the changes.” You have to engage the other side, and sometimes accept partial solutions “that will advance the gains that you seek, understanding that there’s going to be more work to do, but this is what is achievable at this moment.”

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