“A Conversation with President Barack Obama”
Former U.S. President Barack Obama remains one of the most charismatic contemporary leaders the world has ever produced. His recent successful and well-attended visit to Winnipeg last March 4, at MTS Centre—dubbed as “A Conversation with President Barack Obama”—is another proof of that. Obama is not just one’s typical handshaking politician; he is certainly a respectable and intelligent statesman—a very captivating and inspiring one at that. That’s why listening to Obama’s talk in person is indeed a historic experience.
It was already 5:45 p.m. when I finally got my turn to enter MTS Centre’s Media door. As I was on my way to the Downtown venue, crossing Main St., coming from where I parked, I could already observe the long line of people milling into the front doors. Excitement and warm predispositions were in the air despite the chilly Winter winds. Obama has really this positive and cheerful effect on especially people who embrace racial equality, individual respect, global compassion, and peaceful visions—aspects that came to define Obama’s presidency—as well as the topics that the amiable former president tackled that evening.
From his roughly 90-minute talk that thrilled the Winnipeg audience, eliciting occasional laughter and serious applause, here are the highlights that I found very inspiring and which continue to validate Obama’s being a true world visionary. Doubly exciting for me is the fact that most of his worldviews are parallel with mine:
-Obama emphasized that the USA (and the entire world for that matter) should not governed by only one individual. Instead, it should be run by people. “We”—not “I”—are the ones who ensure that democracy prevails.
– Obama began his talk by hailing first his better half Michelle’s own achievements and contributions to society before launching into discussing his own—mark of a gentleman, who is not self-centered.
– “People are the same wherever you go—same hopes, same dreams, same struggles, same inclinations.” However, “We are also different because of different individual circumstances.” And we have to acknowledge that.
– According to Obama, racism is real. In the United States, racism is a powerful force. After all, it was the cause of the American Civil War. We have a world full of anxiety. We have to continue overcoming the history of slavery.
– Younger people are trying to veer away from the bad ways that they learn from the old folks.
– Everyone should be treated fairly; we should take care of our environment.
– We have to espouse the same values of paying attention to facts, reasons, logic, and Science…. debates, compromise, common good, and common sense.
– We should figure out how we can continue fostering freedom of religion, free speech, and individual rights—all that we fought for, for a long time.
– Citizens should insist on better politics—one that is based on integrity and facts.
– The integrity of leadership should be founded on the belief that one is there as a leader for the right reasons; that you’re there because you believe in the mission.
– A leader should not be afraid to acknowledge that there are people who are smarter than he is. He should learn from them. “If you don’t know, please ask.”
– As a leader, you have to be able to build a team of people with different perspectives; not just a group who will follow everything you tell them to do.
– Canada and the United States are tightly bound together culturally and economically. “We are family.”
– Most of the big problems that we face are difficult to solve not because we don’t have answers but because we are not organized.
– We should support young leaders who want social change. Every country has its generation of remarkable, young individuals. These young people are more sophisticated. We should not take that for granted. We should always recognize that. We should train them to become better leaders.
The Last Leaf
Finally, Obama left a very positive view of the world—something that I have fully believed in as well; something that everyone should be able to embrace as well, for all of us to be able to move forward amidst the world’s woes:
“The world is fundamentally less violent, more tolerant, and more educated. Human civilization has achieved some semblance of order.”
And with that, Obama with his sincere smile waved his hand goodbye to the respectful, captivated, and inspired Winnipeggers who were there to witness the momentous engagement.
A thunderous applause. Standing ovation. Warm emotions inside, in spite of the chilly breeze outside.
I parked my pen and heaved a sigh of delight after having been able to collect everything that I could muster from that heartwarming and mind-expanding moment.
If only all political leaders had the character, vision, and most of all, integrity of Obama, then the world could have been a better place and a much more livable space.
Photo credit: Tinepublic Inc. | Photographer: Dwayne Larson