The president sought to make the case that "globalization, combined with technology," has led to populist movements on both the liberal and the conservative ends of the political spectrum throughout the world, on display most recently in the U.S. presidential election.
"When you see a Donald Trump and a Bernie Sanders, very unconventional candidates, have considerable success, obviously there's something there that's being tapped into. A suspicion of globalization, a desire to rein in its excesses," Obama said. "A suspicion of elites and governing institutions — people feel may not be responsive to their immediate needs. And that sometimes gets wrapped up in issues of ethnic identity or religious identity or cultural identity, and that can be a volatile mix."
The president defended his time in office and response to the Great Recession of the late 2000s and said "time will tell" whether the change sought in this election will be popular in application, contending that most of those who voted for Trump are better off today than they were eight years ago.
"People seem to think that I did a pretty good job, so there is this mismatch between frustration and anger, and perhaps the view of the American people was just needing to shake things up," he said. "Time will now tell whether the prescriptions that are being offered, whether Brexit or with respect to the U.S. election, ends up actually satisfying those people who have been fearful or angry or concerned. And I think that's going to be an interesting test."
Obama added that he doesn't "feel responsible for what the president-elect says or does."
He went on to make a strong case against nativist and identity-based politics. "We know what happens when Europeans start dividing themselves up," Obama said, pointing to the last century's two world wars.
He then turned to the United States' history of racial tension. "It's dangerous not just for the minority groups that are subjected to that kind of discrimination," he said. "My vision is right on that issue.
"And I will never apologize for saying that the future of humanity and the future of the world is going to be defined by what we have in common, as opposed to those things that separate us and ultimately lead us into conflict."