Thursday 19 September 2019

People in UK 'can't afford to sit on sidelines' over Brexit: ex-first lady

World is changing: Michelle Obama at the O2 Arena. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire
World is changing: Michelle Obama at the O2 Arena. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Catherine Wylie

Michelle Obama has urged the people of the UK to stay engaged with politics and to resist becoming complacent or cynical.

The former US first lady said people "cannot afford to sit on the sidelines", and said it is time to "roll up our sleeves".

Ms Obama was speaking during her book tour at The O2 Arena in London on Sunday night.

She was asked what advice she would give people in the UK about how to stay calm in a time of turmoil.

Ms Obama joked: "Everybody's like 'help us out here'."

She added: "This trepidation, the anxiety, I mean, it's everywhere, it's all over the world, for sure.

"We're seeing it. We're seeing it played out in our country and all over the place."

Ms Obama said the thing she loves about London is that it is "truly representative of true international diversity".

She said the world is at a point of "extreme change", what with social media, adding: "We know what's going on more now than we ever did before."

Ms Obama said: "So why would this be easy? And it's a little unreasonable for us to expect that we as a world go through this transition and it's not going to cause some fear and trepidation.

"And in all truth, that's part of what we have to learn, how to be a little more empathetic.

"Because people are afraid, because the world is changing so fast. And their fears are real.

"We may not agree with them but some people don't know where their place will be in this new and changing society, this new and changing world."

She added: "But we've changed before. We've had tough times on this planet and we've come out of it."

"It is time for us to roll up our sleeves. If we are not happy with the state of things, then in democracies we have votes.

"But that means you've got to pay attention and we have to be engaged and we can't take our rights and liberties for granted, because if we don't vote, somebody will and that means that's the direction of the country that we're in.

"So this still is all within our control and it's all within our power in our democracy.

"So my advice is get to work. Don't be complacent and don't become so cynical that you just turn off because democracy never stops.

"Just because you get cynical and emotional about it, it keeps going, so we cannot afford to sit on the sidelines."

Irish Independent

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