Posts twist Obama quotes on international ‘order,’ ‘small-minded’ people
CLAIM: Former President Barack Obama was filmed referencing an “international order,” saying men and women are “too small-minded to govern their own affairs,” and insisting that “order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign.”
AP’S ASSESSMENT: Missing context. This spliced video misrepresents Obama’s words in a 2014 speech. The former president was referencing a perspective that runs counter to the American ideal that all men and women are created equal, not speaking in support of that perspective.
THE FACTS: A video circulating widely on TikTok and Facebook this week distorts an Obama speech from more than seven years ago, showing an edited version to make the former president seem like a power-hungry ruler who doesn’t care about individual rights.
The video features two short clips. In the first clip, Obama references an “international order we have worked for generations to build.” In the second clip, he mentions the idea that “ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign.”
A caption overlaid on the video asks, “What did he just say?” and confirms, “Yes, he said it.”
However, a closer look at the speech from which the quotes were pulled reveals that Obama’s words are being misrepresented.
In the March 2014 speech, which occurred during meetings with European Union and NATO officials in Brussels, Obama was urging NATO countries to boost their presence in Europe after Russia invaded Ukraine. As The Associated Press reported at the time, the former president was encouraging NATO allies to retrench behind the war-won ideals of freedom and human dignity, not advocating for people to surrender their rights.
A full transcript of the speech shows that Obama led by saying, “Leaders and dignitaries of the European Union, representatives of our NATO alliance, distinguished guests, we meet here at a moment of testing for Europe and the United States and for the international order that we have worked for generations to build.”
Later in his remarks, Obama said that Europe was the original birthplace of ideals that eventually inspired the American Revolution, which included “the simple truth that all men, and women, are created equal.”
“But those ideals have also been tested, here in Europe and around the world,” Obama said. “Those ideals have often been threatened by an older, more traditional view of power. This alternative vision argues that ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs, that order and progress can only come when individuals surrender their rights to an all-powerful sovereign.”
The AP previously debunked posts with similar claims in 2018.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.