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The former president of the USA UU Barack Obama has launched a strong critique of his successor Donald Trump, calling it "the symptom, not the cause" of division and polarization in the United States.

Trump is "taking advantage of the resentments that politicians have been stoking for years," the former president said during a speech at the University of Illinois.

Obama was accepting an ethics award in government at the university on Friday.

Pointing to the story of former presidents who avoided rumors and the fall of politics, Obama acknowledged that his sharp criticism of Trump was something different from tradition.

But he said that the political moment required a step back and asked for a better speech.

"Appealing to the tribe, appealing to fear, facing one group against another, telling the people that order and security will be restored if it were not for those who do not look like us or who do not sound like us or pray as us, that's an old playbook, "he said.

Former President Barack Obama said Donald Trump is "taking advantage of the resentment that politicians have been stoking for years."

"It's as old as time, and in a healthy democracy, it does not work, our antibodies come into play and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum call in fanatics and scaremongers and work to engage and do things. and promote the best angels of our nation. "

The comments were his first steps in the political contest before the fall campaign for the US legislative elections.

While Obama has supported the candidates and has appeared in fundraising events, he previously spent much of his post-presidency on the political margins.

But in unusually straightforward terms on Friday he made clear his concerns about politics in the Trump era and implored voters, especially young voters, to run for office in the November elections.

"Just a look at recent headlines should tell them that this moment is really different," Obama said.

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"What is at stake is much bigger, the consequences of any of us staying on the sidelines are more disastrous."

Then he added: "This is not normal."

Trump responded by saying that he had gone to sleep watching the speech.

"I'm sorry, I saw it, but I fell asleep," he said in a campaign presentation in Fargo, North Dakota.

"I found it very good to sleep," Trump added.

Trump also said that Obama was trying to take credit for this "incredible thing that is happening to our country."

He went to talk about economic gains since he took office.

On Saturday, Obama will seek Democratic candidates from California at an event in Orange County, a conservative part of California, where Republicans risk losing several seats in Congress.

Next week, he plans to campaign in Ohio for Richard Cordray, the Democratic candidate for governor and Democrats of Ohio.

Obama's campaign activity will continue through October and will include fundraising appearances, according to an adviser.