Speaking at an event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment, Obama never directly referred to Trump.
Instead, he chronicled the struggle against slavery and fight for civil rights to the “challenges” pushing against equality today.
“No matter how divided or despairing we may appear, no matter what ugliness may bubble up,” Obama said. “We betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back against bigotry in all its forms.”
Obama received applause from guests and lawmakers as he said it would be a failure for Americans to reject lessons from past civil rights conflicts and deny freedoms to individuals based on "what their last name is or what faith they practice.”
“If we were to let cynicism consume us, let fear overwhelm us, if we lost hope,” Obama said. “For however slow, however incomplete, however harshly, loudly, rudely challenged at each point along our journey -- in America, we can create the change that we see.”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said today he would not "wave off" the remarks by the president showing stark contrast to the messages put forward by presidential candidate Donald Trump and other GOP candidates.
However, Earnest said, "I would contest the notion that this is something the president newly inserted in his remarks to respond to one individual."