A version of this story appears in CNN’s What Matters newsletter. To get it in your inbox, sign up for free here.

CNN  — 

Former President Barack Obama has retreated from the daily news conversation, but he’s still clearly plugged in.

Sitting down with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this week, he contrasted the furor in the media about wealthy explorers who died while trying to view the Titanic wreckage at the bottom of the sea with the relatively limited attention given to hundreds of migrants who died in the Mediterranean while trying to seek a better life.

RELATED: CNN investigation raises questions about Greek coast guard’s account of shipwreck tragedy

The interview was built around a convening of participants in the Obama Foundation Leaders program in Athens, Greece. When CNN aired an hourlong special featuring the interview Thursday, it sounded like a warning call for American democracy at a time when his two successors as president, both much older than him, are again vying for the White House.

Obama’s years out of office have done nothing to curb his tendency to be long-winded. Below I’ve excerpted some of what I thought were highlights from Amanpour’s interview with Obama. Read the entire thing here.

Will democracy win?

Amanpour noted that Obama gave a speech shortly after former President Donald Trump won the White House in which he explained his faith in democratic ideals. She asked if he still had that faith.

OBAMA: It is indisputable that a combination of forces have put enormous strains on democracy and that we’ve seen a backlash against democratic ideals around the world. It’s not unique to any one place.

It’s happened in Europe. It’s happened in the United States. It’s happened in this part of the world, around the Mediterranean. It’s happening in Asia.

The reason I’m optimistic is because I believe, particularly as I meet young people around the world, there is still a fundamental belief in the dignity and worth of individuals and their agency in determining what their lives are like. I think that’s what young people want.

But our existing democratic institutions are creaky, and we’re going to have to reform them.

What about the ‘creaky’ institutions in the US?

Amanpour asked how the world is supposed to view the fact that a man being prosecuted by the government is also currently a top candidate to lead it in two years.

OBAMA: It’s less than ideal, right? But the fact that we have a former president who is having to answer to charges brought by prosecutors does uphold the basic notion that nobody is above the law, and the allegations will now be sorted out through a court process.

I think I’m more concerned when it comes to the United States with the fact that not just one particular individual is being accused of undermining existing laws, but that more broadly, we’ve seen – whether it’s through the gerrymandering of districts, whether it’s trying to silence critics, through changes in legislative process, whether it’s attempts to intimidate the press – a strand of anti-democratic sentiment that we’ve seen in the United States.

It’s something that is right now most prominent in the Republican Party, but I don’t think it’s something that is unique to one party.

I think there is less tolerance for ideas that don’t suit us, and sort of the habits of a free and open exchange of ideas, and the idea that we all agree to the rules of the game – and even if the outcomes aren’t always the ones we like, we still abide by those rules. I think that’s weakened since I left office, and we’re going to need to strengthen them again.

What happens to institutional democracy if Trump wins again?

OBAMA: The good news is that, through the mechanism of voting, the American people are going to have the opportunity to reaffirm their belief in American democracy.

And the other thing, Christiane, I do think that what happens in the United States matters around the world. And the thing – sometimes I’m asked what surprised you about being president, and I said I knew I was going to be busy and I knew that, obviously, the United States is an extraordinarily powerful country.

The idea of America, the idea of the possibility of a multiracial, multiethnic, multireligious, large, big, complicated country still being able to function as a democracy, that is an important idea for the world.

And when it looks like America’s democracy is teetering or breaking down, then I think it emboldens those who do not believe in democracy around the world, and it worries and weakens democratic forces in other places.

How should presidents engage with world leaders accused of human rights abuses?

Amanpour noted that President Joe Biden hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House this week.

OBAMA: I do think that it is appropriate for the president of the United States, where he or she can, to uphold those principles and to challenge, whether behind closed doors or in public, trends that are troubling.

And so I’m less concerned about labels than I’m concerned about specific practices. I think it is important for the president of the United States to say that if you have Uyghurs in China who are being placed in mass camps and “reeducated,” that’s a problem. That’s a challenge to all of us, and we have to pay attention to it.

I think it is true that if the president meets with Prime Minister Modi, then the protection of the Muslim minority in a majority Hindu India, that’s something worth mentioning.

And, by the way, if I had a conversation with Prime Minister Modi, who I know well, part of my argument would be that if you do not protect the rights of ethnic minorities in India, then there is a strong possibility India at some point starts pulling apart.

And we’ve seen what happens when you start getting those kinds of large internal conflicts. So, that would be contrary to the interests not just of Muslim India, but also Hindu India.

What should Biden do differently to connect with Democrats?

OBAMA: I think that in a media environment that’s so cluttered, it’s very hard to break through until you get to election time.

You’ll recall when I ran for reelection in 2012, my poll numbers weren’t that great, and we ended up winning comfortably. Part of that was just we started campaigning, and we were able to get a message out – and people said, yes, that policy or this policy or this thing left undone, that irritated me a little bit, but overall, I think he’s done a good job. And I think that’s what they’re going to conclude about Joe Biden as well.

Should more have been done to stand up to Vladimir Putin when Russia invaded Crimea in 2014?

OBAMA: I actually think that given both where Ukraine was at, at the time, and where the European mindset was at the time, we held the line.

And part of what happened was, over time, a sense of Ukrainian identity separate from Russia, and a determination to push back against Russia, and an ability to prepare, both militarily and civically, to resist Russian pressure.

They built up those muscles, and that’s part of the reason why they were able to respond the way they did when you actually saw what was, in my view at least, incredibly misguided, not to mention illegal and incredibly cruel incursion by Russian forces.

The media’s political silos do not represent Americans’ everyday experience

OBAMA: There are still a bunch of folks who are more politically conservative than I am on social issues, on economic issues – but who I consider good people, thoughtful people who I learned from and who I enjoy conversations with.

And so, the polarizations that we’ve seen in our national politics is not identical to what’s happening on the ground.

But what is true is that partly because of where people are getting information these days, the siloing of information. … If you’re watching Fox News or following some right-wing radio host or getting Facebook feeds within that bubble, your reality is different than if you read The New York Times or watch your program.

And when people are getting such fundamentally different facts, or what they think to be facts, and their worldviews are so skewed in one direction or another, then it’s very hard for democracy to work.

Asked about backlash to his presidency, Obama pivoted to the current discussion about gender

OBAMA: That us-them dynamic is not just around race. I would argue that in the United States, and I suspect in Europe as well, changing gender roles have fueled at least as much of a backlash as the racial backlash.

This enormous fear among men and those who, like the traditional structures and hierarchies and patriarchy, get very nervous when you have women suddenly being outspoken and thinking that they should have the same rights and power as men do. And when you have people of different sexual orientations saying, I’m here, I want a seat at the table. That has been very threatening.

He contrasted the 5 wealthy people who died in the Titan submersible with the 700 migrants who died in the Mediterranean

OBAMA: Right now, we have 24-hour coverage. And I understand it, of this submarine, the submersible that tragically is right now lost at the bottom of the sea. At the same time, right here, just off the coast of Greece, we had 700 people dead – 700 migrants who were apparently being smuggled into here.

And it’s made news, but it’s not dominating in the same way. And in some ways, it’s indicative of the degree to which people’s life chances have grown so disparate.

It’s very hard to sustain a democracy when you have such massive concentrations of wealth.

And so, part of my argument has been that unless we attend to that, unless we make people feel more economically secure and we’re taking more seriously the need to create ladders of opportunity and a stronger safety net that’s adapted to these new technologies and the displacements that are taking place around the world – if we don’t take care of that, that’s also going to fuel the kind of mostly far-right populism, but it can also potentially come from the left, that is undermining democracy, because it makes people angry and resentful and scared.