April 19, 2024

Exclusive: Former President Barack Obama in Conversation With CNN’s Christiane Amanpour

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Exclusive: Former President Barack Obama in Conversation With CNN’s Christiane Amanpour

In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with CNN’s Chief International Anchor Christiane Amanpour, former US President Barack Obama discussed strains on democratic institutions in the US and around the world, tribalism in US politics, the war in Ukraine, his response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the federal indictment of his successor Donald Trump.

“Obama & Amanpour: Will Democracy Win?” will replay Friday, June 23 at 1pm ET / 6pm BST on CNN International.

Key quotes from President Obama

On the spectacle of former President Trump’s indictment message VIDEO
“It’s less than ideal. But the fact that we have a former president who is having to answer to charges brought by prosecutors, does uphold the basic notion that nobody is above the law. And the allegations will now be sorted out through a court process. I think I’m more concerned when it comes to the United States with the fact that not just one particular individual is being accused of undermining existing laws, but that more broadly we’ve seen, whether it’s through the gerrymandering of districts, whether it’s trying to silence critics through changes in legislative process, whether it’s attempts to intimidate the press, a strand of anti-democratic sentiment that we’ve seen in the United States. It’s something that is right now most prominent in the Republican Party, but I don’t think it’s something that is unique to one party. I think there is a less tolerance for ideas that don’t suit us. And it’s sort of the habits of a free and open exchange of ideas, and the idea that we all agree to the rules of the game, and even if the outcomes aren’t always the ones we like, we still abide by those rules. I think that’s weakened since I left office, and we’re going to be able to strengthen them again.”

On Americans living in two different realities VIDEO

“It wasn’t that long ago that I got a lot of Republican votes. It wasn’t that long ago where John McCain was the Republican nominee and actively shut down a speaker at a town hall who was saying that I was an illegal alien bent on imposing Sharia law on the United States. And there are still a bunch of folks who are more politically conservative than I am on social issues, on economic issues, but who I consider good people, thoughtful people, who I’ve learned from, that that I enjoy conversations with.

So the polarization that we’ve seen in our national politics is not identical to what’s happening on the ground. But what is true that partly because of where people are getting information these days, the siloing of information. I’ve said this before, but if you’re watching Fox News or following some right wing radio hosts or getting Facebook feeds within that bubble, your reality is different than if you read “The New York Times” or watch your program.

And when people are getting such fundamentally different facts, or what they think to be facts, and their world views are so skewed in one direction or another, and it’s very hard for democracy to work. So, it is the reason why they’re spending a lot of time both in the foundation and in other work talking about these problems of misinformation, not just the kind of misinformation that we see Putin engaging in, in the Ukraine situation. Not just during election time, but just this constant demonization of the other side, making people fearful of each other, and unfortunately, I think that’s going to be a problem that gets even more pronounce with the advent of A.I. and deepfakes and all these challenges.”

On race being the “fault line” in American politics VIDEO

“I think race has always been the fault line in American life, in American politics. That’s not original to me. I think any observer in America would say that. And, by the way, that historically is not — should have been a one-sided partisan issue. It is something that America has had to grapple with for centuries. I think we have made real progress. And, you know, although I was always skeptical that my election somehow signified a post-racial America, if you look at any speech I gave throughout my presidency, I was always someone who reminded the country of the progress that was possible. That was my brand, right? That’s part of the hope and change thing. But what I’ve also always said about hope was it can’t be blind hope. It can’t be a willful ignorance to our history. We reckon with our history. That’s how we then get better. That’s how we perfect our union.

Humans have a strong desire to coalesce, particularly during times of stress, around tribe, clan, race, you know, whatever our religious preferences are. And politicians have a good way of exploiting that. And if we don’t resist it, then we’re going to have problems. And, by the way, it’s not just that us-them dynamic, is not just around race, I would argue that in the United States, and I suspect in Europe, as well, changing gender roles have fueled, at least, as much of a backlash as the racial backlash, this enormous fear among men, and those who, like, the traditional structures and hierarchies and patriarchy, get very nervous when you have women suddenly, being outspoken and thinking that they should have the same rights and power as men do. And when you have people of different sexual orientations saying, I’m here. I want a seat at the table. That has been very threatening.

On ‘obscene inequality’ challenging a healthy democracy VIDEO

“There’s one last ingredient that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention. I do think there’s an economic element to our democracy that we have to pay attention to. Our democracy is not going to be healthy with the levels of inequality that we’ve seen, generated from globalization, automation, the decline in unions, obscene inequality. And right here, just off the coast of Greece, we had 700 people that — 700 migrants who were apparently being smuggled into here, and we’ve made news, but it’s not dominating in the same way. And in some ways, it’s indicative of the degree to which people’s life chances have grown so disparate.

It’s very hard to sustain a democracy when you have such massive concentrations of wealth. And so part of my argument has been that unless we attend to that, unless we make people feel more economically secure, and we’re taking more seriously, they need to create ladders of opportunity and a stronger safety net, that’s adapted to these new technologies, and the displacements that are taking place around the world. If we don’t take care of that, that’s also going to fuel the kind of — mostly far right populism, but it can also potentially come from the left that is undermining democracy because it makes people angry and resentful and scared.”

On his response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 VIDEO

“I think the Ukraine of that time is not the Ukraine that we’re talking about today. There’s a reason why there was not an armed invasion of Crimea, because Crimea was full of a lot of Russian speakers and there was some sympathy to the view that Russia was representing its interests. The Rada at the time, the Ukrainian parliament itself still had a number of Russian sympathizers, and the politics inside Ukraine were more complicated.

And part of what happened was both myself but also Merkel, who I give enormous credit for, had to pull in a lot of other Europeans kicking and screaming to impose the sanctions that we did and to prevent Putin from continuing through the Donbas and to the rest of Ukraine. So, I actually think that given both where Ukraine was at, at the time, and where the European mindset was at the time, we held the line. And part of what happened was overtime, a sense of Ukrainian identity separates from Russian and a determination to push back against Russian and an ability to prepare both militarily and civically to resist Russian pressure, that — they built up those muscles and that’s part of the reason why they were able to respond the way they did when you actually saw what was in my view at least incredibly misguided, not to mention illegal and incredibly cruel incursion by Russian forces. I think that we challenge Putin with the tools that we had at the time, given where Ukraine was at the time.”

On dealing with anti-democratic world leaders VIDEO
“It’s complicated. The president of the United States has a lot of equities. And when I was president, I would deal with figures, in some cases who were allies, who, you know, if you pressed me in private, do they run their governments and their political parties in ways that I would say are ideally democratic? I’d have to say no. But you have to do business with them because they’re important for national security reasons. I dealt with China to get the Paris Accords done. I dealt with Modi to get the Paris Accords done because I think climate change is something that transcends any particular momentary issues. It’s a problem that humanity’s got to deal with over the next several decades in a serious way. I do think that it is appropriate for the president of the United States, where he or she can, to uphold those principles and to challenge, whether behind closed doors or in public, trends that are troubling. And so I’m less concerned about labels than I’m concerned about specific practices.”

On his message to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi VIDEO
“I think it is true that if the president meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India, that’s something worth mentioning. And by the way, if I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know well, part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there is a strong possibility India at some point starts pulling apart. And we’ve seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts. So that would be contrary to the interests of not just of Muslim India, but also of Hindu India. So I think it’s important to be able to talk about these things honestly. Things are never going to be as clean as you’d like because the world is complicated. So the world is complicated.”

On the backlash against democratic ideals around the world VIDEO

“It is indisputable that a combination of forces have put enormous strains on democracy and that we’ve seen a backlash against democratic ideals around the world. It’s not unique to any one place. It’s happened in Europe. It’s happened in the United States. It’s happened in this part of the world, around the Mediterranean. It’s happening in Asia. The reason I’m optimistic is because I believe, particularly as I meet young people around the world, there is still a fundamental belief in the dignity and worth of individuals and their agency in determining what their lives are like. I think that’s what young people want. But, you know, our existing democratic institutions are creaky, and we’re going to have to reform them.”

BARACK OBAMA, (D) FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It is wonderful to be with you.

AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about your commitment to democracy right here in Athens? You did give a speech, your last speech as president, about a week after President Trump won, and you talked about your faith in the, you know, the solidity of the democratic ideals. A lot has happened still since then, right?

OBAMA: That’s true.

AMANPOUR: Do you still feel that way? Do you feel democracy will win?

OBAMA: I do believe that democracy will win if we fight for it. And one of the themes of that speech then, a year or so later, at the centennial of Nelson Mandela’s birthday in Johannesburg, gave a speech about democracy as well. And it’s obviously continued to be an obsession of mine with the foundation.

Democracy is not self-executing. It depends on the engagement of citizens and an active mobilization of people around the belief, not just in any particular issue, but the belief in self-governance and rule of law, and independent judiciary and a free press. All the civic institutions that go into making a democracy work. It is indisputable that a combination of forces have put enormous strains on democracy and that we’ve seen a backlash against democratic ideals around the world. It’s not unique to any one place. It’s happened in Europe. It’s happened in the United States. It’s happened in this part of the world, around the Mediterranean. It’s happening in Asia.

The reason I’m optimistic is because I believe, particularly as I meet young people around the world, there is still a fundamental belief in the dignity and worth of individuals and their agency in determining what their lives are like. I think that’s what young people want. But, you know, our existing democratic institutions are creaky, and we’re going to have to reform them.

AMANPOUR: So let’s ask about the creaky or not institutions in the United States.

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: The spectacle of a former president being federally indicted. How is the rest of the world, the democratic world, maybe even the non-democratic world, meant to interpret that indictment, and indeed, the fact that federal indictee is running, is able to run for the highest office in the land, maybe even the world?

OBAMA: It’s less than ideal. But the fact that we have a former president who is having to answer two charges brought by prosecutors, does uphold the basic notion that nobody’s above the law and the allegations will now be sorted out through a court process.

And I think I’m more concerned when it comes to the United States with the fact that not just one particular individual is being accused of undermining existing laws, but that more broadly we’ve seen whether it’s through the gerrymandering of districts, whether it’s, you know, trying to silence critics through changes in legislative process, whether it’s attempts to intimidate the press, a strand of antidemocratic sentiment that, you know, we’ve seen in the United States.

It’s something that is right now most prominent in the Republican Party, but I don’t think — it’s something that is unique to one party. Yeah, I think there is less tolerance for ideas that don’t suit us and sort of the habits of a free and open exchange of ideas and the idea that, you know, we all agree to the rules of the game and even if the outcomes aren’t always the ones we like, we still abide by those rules. I think that weakened since I left office. And we’re going to need to strengthen them again.

AMANPOUR: So I do need to ask you then, a follow up on that, because what happens if Donald Trump wins again? It said that the institutional guardrails of American democracy were strong enough to survive, one term presidency. Are they strong enough to survive? If that kind of person personality wins again.

OBAMA: I won’t speculate on the outcome of a future election. Obviously, I’m a Democrat. I’ve got a deep —

AMANPOUR: I mean, the institutional —

OBAMA: — interest in the outcome. But I’ll make a general statement, which is having been President of the United States, you need a president who takes the oath of office seriously. You need a President who believes not just in the letter but in the spirit of democracy. And the essential spirit of democracy is that as President of the United States you are just one representative of the people in a series of co-equal branches. There are checks and balances to the system. You are subject to those checks and balances. You cannot ignore them. You cannot make your own rules. You cannot view the Justice Department as your personal law firm. You cannot ignore norms and guardrails that have been put in place to assure that your self-interest isn’t what drives these institutions but is rather the interests of the American people.

And so, if you have anybody who’s occupying that office who disregards that higher — that higher purpose, then you’re going to have problems. The good news is s that through the mechanism of voting the American people are going to have the opportunity to reaffirm their belief in American democracy.

And the other thing, Christiane, I do think that what happens in the United States matters around the world. And the thing sometimes I’m asked what surprised you about being president, and I said, you know, I knew I was going to be busy, and I knew that, obviously, the United States is an extraordinarily powerful country.

The idea of America, the idea of a — the possibility of a multiracial, multi-ethnic, multireligious, large, big, complicated country still being able to function as a democracy, that is an important idea for the world. And when it looks like America’s democracy is teetering or breaking down, then I think it emboldens those who do not believe in democracy around the world, and it worries and weakens democratic forces in other places.

So President Biden, man who you know extremely well, has made the defense of democracy the sort of centerpiece of his — of his administration, it just so happens that right now there’s also not just, you know, threats to democracy by dictatorships and autocrats, but also illiberal democracy as well.

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: He has called the President of China a dictator, and they’re sticking with it. He is also hosting, as we speak, the Prime Minister of India, Modi, who is considered autocratic, or at least a liberal Democrat. What is the point, I guess, or how should a president engage with those kinds of leaders, either in the naming of them or in the dealing with them?

OBAMA: Look, it’s — it’s complicated. The President of the United States has a lot of equities, and when I was president, I would deal with figures in some cases who were allies, who, if you pressed me in private, do they run their governments? And their political parties in ways that I would say are ideally democratic. I’d have to say, no.

AMANPOUR: You want to name names?

OBAMA: No, of course not. But you had to do business with them, because they’re important for national security reasons. There are, you know, a range of economic interests.

You know, I dealt with China to get the Paris Accords done. I dealt with Modi to get the Paris Accords done because I think climate change is something that transcends, you know, any particular momentary issues. It’s a problem that humanity has got to deal with over the next several decades in a serious way.

I do think that it is appropriate for the President of the United States where he or she can, to uphold those principles and to challenge whether behind closed doors or in public trends that are troubling. And so, I’m less concerned about labels than I’m concerned about, you know, specific practices.

You know, I think it is important for the President of the United States to say that if you have Uyghurs in China who are being placed in mass camps and “reeducated.” That’s a problem. That’s a challenge to all of us and we have to pay attention to it.

I think it is true that if the President meets with Prime Minister Modi then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India that’s something worth mentioning. Because — and by the way, if I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi who I know well, part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India then there is a strong possibility India at some point starts pulling apart. And we’ve seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts.

So that would be contrary to the interests not just of Muslim India, but also Hindu India. So I think it’s important to be able to talk about these things honestly. You’re never going to have a — things are never going to be as clean as you’d like because the world is complicated.

AMANPOUR: So the world is complicated, as you say. President Biden is — as we all know, running for reelection. Everybody’s talking about his age. People are talking about his polls. Even, there’s some challenges within the Democrats. Maybe somebody will might start to, you know, to try to primary him, et cetera.

But what I would like to know is many say that his policies and his legislatives and his wins, frankly, since, you know, 2018, ’20, 2022, should speak for themselves. And yet, according to The Way to Win, it’s a Democrat leaning company firm, only some 22% of Latino voters, 33% of black voters can actually identify something that they say he’s done to specifically make their lives better.

OBAMA: Yes.

AMANPOUR: What would you say to that and would you — how would you advise him to connect in a reelection?

OBAMA: I think Joe Biden has done an extraordinary job leading the country through some very difficult times. I do not think that there’s going to be any kind of serious primary challenge to Joe Biden. I think that Democratic Party is unified.

You know, there was a lot of talk, you’ll remember when he was first elected because Bernie Sanders had run, that somehow there was this huge split between progressive Democrats and more centrist Democrats. The truth is that partly because of how Joe is governed. Those divisions have been bridged.

I think what’s true in American politics generally is until you get two campaigns, people aren’t paying much attention. People have gone through a difficult time because of COVID and the pandemic and lockdowns, because of inflation, primarily, the result of both the war in Ukraine and rising energy prices as well as supply chain issues.

And so, people have memories about — okay, eggs got more expensive and gas was more expensive, and they haven’t been paying as much attention to the fact that, for example, the African-American unemployment rate is lower that’s been in decades.

The campaign will allow President Biden to make those arguments and I think that, you know, in a media environment that’s so cluttered, it’s very hard to break through until you get to election.

You’ve recalled when I ran for reelection in 2012, my poll numbers weren’t that great, and we ended up winning comfortably. Part of that was just we started campaigning and we were able to get the message out and people said, yeah, you know? That policy or this policy or this thing left undone, that irritated me a little bit, but overall, I think he’s done a good job, and I think that’s what they’re going to conclude by Joe Biden as well.

AMANPOUR: Where did Ukraine — when Russia started this illegal invasion, second invasion of Ukraine —

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: I believe you said that democracy, it’s a clarion call. It’s a wake up call, democracy is getting flabby and feckless. Where does Ukraine, in your view, stands in the fight to preserve democracy?

OBAMA: I think it’s vital. It’s interesting. Before I left office, I gave speeches not just here in Athens, but also in Hamburg, in London, and one of the arguments I made is, do not take for granted the extraordinary achievement of the European Union. And the fact that a continent that was wrecked by war, and bloodshed for centuries was now as prosperous and as people of any in history.

And then now, we’ve seen the first war on European soil in recent memory and I think it was a wakeup call for Europe. And I think it was a wakeup call for the West and to democracies around the world, that the old ways of thinking might makes right, big countries can do what they want to small countries, that, you know, people cannot independently determined their futures, that those forces have to be confronted, watching the Ukrainians themselves with such courage and bravery fight back, I think that reminded Europe of who they were.

And I’ve been impressed by the degree to which in — not the easy circumstances. Europe has stood up. It has provided the aide that was necessary. I think the Biden administration has very deftly managed maintaining that alliance to support Ukraine, and I believe the stakes are high, to send a message to somebody like Putin, that they are not going to be able to willy-nilly determine the borders of other countries.

AMANPOUR: So, obviously, hindsight is a great thing, 20-20 vision is a great thing, but you experienced while you’re in office —

OBAMA: Right.

AMANPOUR: — the annexation of Crimea. And many people said neither you nor the Western allies stood up and put enough red lines around him around that.

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: So, what’s reaction to that? And I want to just add also, your friend, your good friend and colleague, Angela Merkel, is under very serious criticism right now. I know you’ve just met her —

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: — recently, should she have leveraged, you know, Germany’s economy, energy, on the addiction to cheap energy —

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: — in Russia? Was that a mistake?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think the Ukraine of that time is not the Ukraine that we’re talking about today. There’s a reason why there was not an armed invasion of Crimea, because Crimea was full of a lot of Russian speakers and there was some sympathy to the view that Russia was representing its interests. The Rada at the time, the Ukrainian parliament itself still had a number of Russian sympathizers, and the politics inside Ukraine were more complicated.

And part of what happened was both myself but also Merkel, who I give enormous credit for, had to pull in a lot of other Europeans kicking and screaming to impose the sanctions that we did and to prevent Putin from continuing through the Donbas and to the rest of Ukraine. So, I actually think that given both where Ukraine was at, at the time, and where the European mindset was at the time, we held the line. And part of what happened was overtime, a sense of Ukrainian identity separates from Russian and a determination to push back against Russian and an ability to prepare both militarily and civically to resist Russian pressure, that — they built up those muscles and that’s part of the reason why they were able to respond the way they did when you actually saw what was in my view at least incredibly misguided, not to mention illegal and incredibly cruel incursion by Russian forces.

AMANPOUR: Do you think Putin should have been charged more then?

OBAMA: I think that we challenge Putin with the tools that we had at the time, given where Ukraine was at the time.

AMANPOUR: How do you think it will end?

OBAMA: I don’t think any of us know. And I think anybody who speculate I think would be — would be making a (INAUDIBLE).

AMANPOUR: OK. Back to the United States and actually to the world —

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: — you said recently in the speech that, you know, if we — if we keep having these terrible differences that we have, we will destroy each other, we have to find a way how to live together.

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: I spoke to one of the Republican candidates, former Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, who said to me about various name-calling and tribalism, he said, give the candidates a change to talk about the issues that the Americans are concerned are about. Let’s use appropriate language, let’s be clear that we have difference of policy, but that doesn’t always make the person on the other side an evil person or somebody that doesn’t love our country.

OBAMA: That’s right.

AMANPOUR: Do you think the Republicans will coalesce around that kind of message?

OBAMA: No.

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: There’s — there’s no evidence that that’s where their head is at right now. Now, that doesn’t mean that that’s not attainable overtime, you know?

Look, it wasn’t that long ago that I got a lot of Republican votes. It wasn’t that long ago where John McCain was the Republican nominee and actively shut down a speaker at a town hall who was saying that I was an illegal alien bent on imposing Sharia law on the United States.

And there are still a bunch of folks who are more politically conservative than I am on social issues, on economic issues, but who I consider good people, thoughtful people, who I’ve learned from, that that I enjoy conversations with.

And — so, the polarization that we’ve seen in our national politics is not identical to what’s happening on the ground. But what is true that partly because — because of where people are getting information these days, the siloing of information. If you are watching Fox News, I’ve said this before, if you’re watching Fox News or following some right wing, you know, radio hosts, or getting Facebook feeds, within that bubble, your reality is different than if you read “The New York Times” or watch your program.

And when people are getting such fundamentally different facts, or what they think to be facts, and their world views are so skewed in one direction or another, and it’s very hard for democracy to work. So, it is the reason why they’re spending a lot of time both in the foundation and in other work talking about these problems of misinformation, not just the kind of misinformation that we see Putin engaging in, in the Ukraine situation.

Not just during election time, but just this constant demonization of the other side, making people fearful of each other, and unfortunately, I think that’s going to be a problem that gets even more pronounce with the advent of A.I. and deepfakes and all these challenges.

AMANPOUR: And we want to talk about that a lot with the leaders in the second part of this program. I just want to ask you before I got to them finally — race.

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: You’re the first Black president. When Trump was elected, somebody who used to work for you now is an analyst, Van Jones, said whitelash. It was the whitelash against Black presidency.

OBAMA: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: Do you think the whitelash is receding? And I guess combined with that, how do you interpret two candidates of color, Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, Tim Scott, senator of South Carolina, who are saying that Obama wants to keep essentially race as part of the — of the equation, a part of the, you know, the conversation and you have — you don’t believe that everybody has an equal chance in the United States no matter what their color?

OBAMA: Well, look, I won’t comment on what Republican candidates say. I’m not running, so they can — they — they can find other ways to occupy their time.

I think race has always been the fault line in American life, in American politics. That’s not original to me. I think any observer in America would say that. And, by the way, that historically is not — should have been a one-sided partisan issue.

My favorite president, Abraham Lincoln, you know, did an awful lot to advance the cause of freedom and conversely, the Democratic Party was where the Dixiecrats resisted civil rights and progress for years, and impose Jim Crow.

So, it is something that America has had to grapple with for centuries. I think we have made real progress. And, you know, although I was always skeptical that my election somehow signified a post-racial America, if you look at any speech I gave throughout my presidency, I was always someone who reminded the country of the progress that was possible. That was my brand, right? That’s part of the hope and change thing.

But what I’ve also always said about hope was it can’t be blind hope. It — it can’t be a willful ignorance to our history. We reckon with our history. That’s how we then get better. That’s how we perfect our union, you know? In the same way that Germany got better when it looked squarely at what happened during World War Two, and came to terms with that. And that’s part of why it is a thriving, stable, and increasingly diverse society. And, you know, that’s part of the argument that I think all of us, not just in the United States or in Europe, but around the world have to come to terms with it.

Humans have a strong desire to coalesce, particularly during times of stress around tribe, clan, race, you know, whatever our religious preferences are. And politicians have a good way of exploiting that. And if we don’t resist it, then we’re going to have problems.

And, by the way, it’s not just that us them dynamic, is not just around race, I would argue that in the United States, and I suspect in Europe, as well, changing gender roles have fueled, at least, as much of a backlash as the racial backlash, this enormous fear among men, and those who, like, the traditional structures and hierarchies and patriarchy, get very nervous when you have women suddenly, being outspoken and thinking that they should have the same rights and power as men do.

And when you have people of different sexual orientations saying, I’m here. I want a seat at the table. That has been very threatening.

And there’s one last ingredient that I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, because I think this is also part of our democracy. I’ll talk about this a little bit in a plenary session at this conference we’re at. And I’ve mentioned this before. I do think there’s an economic element to our democracy that we have to pay attention to.

Our democracy is not going to be healthy with the levels of inequality that we’ve seen, generated from globalization, automation, the decline in unions, obscene inequality. You think about news of the day. Generally, we’re not talking about news of the day. But right now, we have 24-hour coverage. And I understand it, of this submarine, the submersible, that tragically is right now have lost at the bottom of the sea.

At the same time, right here, in just off the coast of Greece, we had 700 people that — 700 migrants who were apparently being smuggled into here, and we’ve made news, but it’s not dominating in the same way. And in some ways, it’s indicative of the degree to which people’s life chances have grown so disparate.

It’s very hard to sustain a democracy when you have such massive concentrations of wealth. And so part of my argument has been that unless we attend to that, unless we make people feel more economically secure, and we’re taking more seriously, they need to create ladders of opportunity and a stronger safety net, that’s adapted to these new technologies, and the displacements that are taking place around the world. If we don’t take care of that, that’s also going to fuel the kind of — mostly far right populism, but it can also potentially come from the left that is undermining democracy because it makes people angry and resentful and scared.

AMANPOUR: And we are going to talk about that in the second part of this program with the Obama Foundation youth leaders and yourself.

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