Former United States President Barack Obama returned to Australian shores last week for ‘An evening with President Obama.’
Audiences of up to twenty thousand people in Sydney and Melbourne were keen to hear insights from the 44th President.
Chancellor of Australian National University Julie Bishop moderated a wide-ranging discussion where Obama shared his perspective on foreign policy issues spanning China, Russia and the war in Ukraine.
Obama was an engaging, thought-provoking and unifying presence.
President Barack Obama Australian Tour
OBAMA ON THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE AUSTRALIA CURRENTLY FACES
President Obama said the US and Australia are facing the same challenges.
“We now live in a world in which everybody wants a voice and everybody wants a seat at the table, and by the way they deserve it if you believe in the inherent dignity and worth of all people then we need to make sure everybody’s represented.
But you know what? It turns out that it’s harder to agree when you’ve got somebody who doesn’t look like you, didn’t grow up like you and didn’t have the exact same experiences as you do, who doesn’t worship the same god in the same way as you do.
And if there’s a history of one of those groups who didn’t have a voice having been brutally suppressed for much of their history, there’s going to be some anger issues.”
He noted the challenge is how do we figure out how we can live together, how can we respect each other and find a common set of principals and common understandings and build enough “social trust” to work together effectively.
ADVICE TO YOUNG AUSTRALIANS
President Obama didn’t hesitate when asked what advice he would give to young people concerned about climate change, job security, housing affordability and the impact of social media and tech.
“This is where I continue to draw hope.
We’re focussed on identifying: supporting, training and connecting outstanding young leaders on every continent around the world including here in Australia, New Zealand, South East Asia, Africa, Europe, United States, Latin America.
When I was President I made a point of always trying to have a town hall with young people wherever I went.
What I discovered was across national boundaries, this upcoming generation is smarter and more innovative and more environmentally conscious and more predisposed towards equality than probably any prior generation.
They have good instincts and they want to have impact and they are idealistic; but they’re cynical about existing institutions.
(I tell them) You can change this, you can’t change it overnight and you can’t change anything all at once but if you put your shoulder to the wheel, you can have an impact because these are all human enterprises, human creations and we’ve got as far as we have because people like you decided to re-imagine what was possible and we’re seeing young people around the world take up that baton and run their race.”
LEAN TOWARDS OPTIMISM
Obama noted it’s difficult to find the positive when consumers are bombarded with negative messaging via dominant media and social media. He spoke of a tendency of some young people to get overwrought or feel hopeless.
“As bad as things sometimes seem and are, the truth is that the world has never been as wealthy, as healthy and as well-educated.
In some cases there’s still enormous cruelty and discrimination, but there’s probably more adherence to basic human rights….your chances at living a life of dignity and worth and having impact on the world today has never been greater. So take advantage of it.
I also tell them to floss their teeth!” (audience laughs)
The Obama Foundation empowers individuals who are committed to service with tools they need to make their efforts more effective.
It aims to identify innovative solutions to complex global problems and promote change through values-based leadership.
On November 4, 2008 Barack Hussein Obama was elected, winning more votes than any other candidate in history. Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama continue to cultivate leaders through the Obama Foundation.
You can find more information here.
Engaging Women is not affiliated with the Obama Foundation.