Barack and Michelle Obama are making headlines in Australia for all the wrong reasons
SYDNEY — It was clear on the streets of Sydney this week that someone very important was in town — with extensive traffic jams, increased police presence and sirens blaring across the city to announce the arrival of former US President Barack Obama and his Announcing Ms. Michelle They embarked on a speaking tour.
But the mounting delays were just the beginning of a journey plagued by headlines that seemed to haunt the Obamas throughout their stay Down Under. They were accused of insulting a high-profile Indigenous woman and angering the country’s Indigenous Wurundjeri community for a “lack of understanding and respect” while paparazzi caught the couple failing to use safety gear while sightseeing on the iconic Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Even before his arrival, the excitement surrounding Obama’s Australian tour was palpable, with reports of a $1 million payday for a much-anticipated series of talks with former Australian Foreign Secretary Julie Bishop raising eyebrows from conservative critics. Tickets for the events have sold for as much as a staggering $900.
It was his first visit to the country since 2014 when the then President visited Queensland for the G20 summit.
Despite the insane crowd of fans following the former President, he mostly skipped meetings with the public, confessing: “If you’re wondering why I’m not strolling around Sydney, it’s not the safety, it’s the risk of 100 Selfies at a time.” However, Australians could purchase a “Platinum Package” for the “Evening with President Obama,” which included “a welcome cocktail at an hour-long drinks event, a commemorative ribbon and an autographed copy of Mr. Obama’s book,” according to NewsWire.
Then on Wednesday, experts were quick to criticize both Barack and Michelle after they were snapped by paparazzi while climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge without harnesses, which is a common safety precaution for scaling the fabled span. A Transport NSW spokesman confirmed the couple, along with their entourage, had been given “special permission” to climb the Sydney icon without wearing the overalls and safety gear required for the general public.
Transport NSW noted that the climb “followed standard safety protocols in place for visiting dignitaries and are implemented on a regular basis”. Among those dignitaries is Prince Harry, who did not wear the jumpsuit but donned a security apparatus during his own 2018 ascension. When Oprah visited in 2010, she went for the whole package.
Obama’s speaking engagement even managed to stoke racial tensions on Thursday after it was revealed that organizers of the former president’s speaking tour barred an Indigenous elder from Wednesday night’s event, allegedly because she said it was “too difficult.”
Organizers have since apologized to Wurundjeri elder Aunt Joy Murphy after she canceled her appearance at Obama’s event in Melbourne and asked her to attend a business lunch with the former president, the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural, on Thursday instead ‘Welcome to Country’ performance, Heritage Aboriginal Corporation confirmed to The Daily Beast. Aunty Joy, who as a senior Wurundjeri Aboriginal elder had previously welcomed the Queen, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, was replaced by Melbourne-based Wurundjeri woman and artist Mandy Nicholson.
Aunt Joy pointed the finger at event organizers, stressing, “I don’t want this to be a reflection on President Obama.”
In a statement from The Daily Beast, Aunt Joy said: “I am 78 years old. I have never been treated or spoken to in this way in the past. I don’t want this to be a reflection on President Obama. I am a leader of the Wurundjeri nation. I asked to be treated equally.”
But she changed her tune slightly after receiving the offer of reconciliation.
“Although it saddens me to think of having to go through yesterday’s events, I am glad that Aboriginal culture has received proper recognition,” Aunt Joy said in a follow-up statement. “It will be my great pleasure to welcome the first black American President to the land of Wurundjeri on behalf of my community and my ancestors.”
During Thursday’s luncheon, it was unclear whether Obama himself had reached out to Aunt Joy to apologize. Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation did not respond to a request for comment when questioned by The Daily Beast.
But in all the drama, Obama’s salvation was… himself, with The Daily Beast understanding through a source who could meet Aunt Joy and Obama, and the drama was quickly resolved.
With a winning streak, Obama also won the hearts of Australians back while speaking on issues such as women’s power and the tragedy of gun control.
Speaking in Melbourne on Wednesday night, he admitted his biggest regret and the lowest point of his presidency was his failure to overhaul gun laws and America’s powerful gun lobby.
“My biggest regret and greatest disappointment during my presidency was that I couldn’t overcome the influence of gun manufacturers, the paranoia and suspicion of certain gun owners, I couldn’t have this strange fixation on guns and guns in the United States that is unique overcome at least economically advanced nations,” he said, just days after a school shooting in Nashville claimed the lives of six people.
“We tolerate the routine killing of children. Certainly poor children, black children. Latino kids, everything.”
Obama said after the Sandy Hook devastation he realized, “These were six-year-olds in a wealthy white suburb, and it didn’t matter, we couldn’t budge from Congress. There was a deep despair and a feeling that maybe there was a futility here.”
Obama has supported Australia’s tough stance on gun control for years, including a 2015 interview with comedian Marc Maron in which he noted the country’s change in law following its own 1996 mass shooting in Port Arthur that killed 35 people and killed 23 people were injured.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/barack-and-michelle-obama-make-headlines-in-australia-for-all-the-wrong-reasons Barack and Michelle Obama are making headlines in Australia for all the wrong reasons