Obama Ends Kenya Trip with Tough-Love Speech ; President Calls on Nation to End Corruption and Overcome Societal Issues

By Peter Baker; Marc Santora | International New York Times, July 27, 2015 | Go to article overview

Obama Ends Kenya Trip with Tough-Love Speech ; President Calls on Nation to End Corruption and Overcome Societal Issues


Peter Baker; Marc Santora, International New York Times


In a speech on Sunday, President Obama challenged the land of his father to end corruption, overcome ethnic divisions and stop discrimination against women.

President Obama challenged the land of his father on Sunday to break the cycle of corruption, strengthen its shaky democracy, overcome ethnic divisions and end discrimination against women and girls as he wrapped up a two-day visit to Kenya full of potent symbolism.

Delivering a tough-love message, Mr. Obama hailed the economic and political advances of recent years and forecast a bright future for the country, but he said that further progress would require it to confront "the dark corners" of its past and tackle problems that have plagued it for generations.

"There's much to be proud of, much progress to lift up. It's a good news story," Mr. Obama told about 4,500 mostly young Kenyans who packed the Safaricom Indoor Arena on the outskirts of Nairobi, the capital. "But we also know progress is not equal. There are still problems that challenge ordinary Kenyans every day."

"Today," he added, "we can see that future for Kenya on the horizon, but some tough choices have to be made."

Mr. Obama's speech was meant to be the centerpiece of his trip, his first since taking office to the country where his father was born. Claiming him as one of their own, Kenyans exulted over his visit and obsessed over every detail of his stay, including the armored car shipped in to drive him around, the security that surrounded him around the clock and who got the longest hug when he landed at the airport.

Amid extraordinary security on Sunday, Mr. Obama saw the most sizable crowds since he arrived. When his helicopter touched down at Kenyatta University, thousands of students and others lined the streets, waving, cheering, taking photographs and in some cases wearing Obama-theme T-shirts. When his motorcade left the campus to head down a highway past a series of ramshackle slums to the arena, he went by thousands more people along the roads, in this case mostly standing silently and watching as if holding vigil.

At the arena, his first encounter with everyday Kenyans during his visit, the crowd chanted "Obama! Obama! Obama!" and the public address system played a song with the refrain "I'm coming home." But when he went to shake hands after the speech, the crowd surged forward, pushing barriers several feet. …

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