HKS Authors

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Abstract

When news broke that President Barack Obama would be receiving a $400,000 check for delivering a speech in September at a corporate healthcare conference, it provoked a public uproar, coming a few months after the Obamas had signed a lucrative book contract worth a staggering $30 to $65 million. In Congress, right-wing partisans threatened to reintroduce legislation to limit or block presidential pensions (a bill Obama once vetoed as president); on the left, critics argued that Obama’s speaking fee was a reflection of a president far too comfortable with the monied interests of Wall Street, to the detriment of the working class and the poor. Within days, Obama announced he and Michelle planned to donate a hefty portion of their millions to charitable anti-poverty and social justice organizations, including the Obama Foundation; $2 million alone would go to summer jobs programs in Chicago. The Obamas’ philanthropic move quieted much of the pushback—at least for the moment. And yet, though most of the country has moved on from that brief public outcry, the complex tensions of race and class that underscored that moment still simmer, ready to bubble over again at a moment’s notice.

Citation

Wright Rigueur, Leah. "Neoliberal Social Justice: From Ed Brooke to Barack Obama." Items: Insights from the Social Sciences, May 30, 2017.