One of the many things I enjoy about living abroad is meeting people I would not necessarily meet if I was residing in my home country, Nigeria. From meeting favourite artistes to world leaders, I had the opportunity to be in the same room with the 44th President of the United States of America, Barrack Obama.
Former President, Barrack Obama graced us with his presence here in Halifax, Nova Scotia in honour of the 70th anniversary of Nova Scotia Cooperative Council tagged “A conversation with President Barrack Obama” at the Scotiabank Centre.
Walking through the venue’s door alongside 9000 other people, I did not know what to expect. For a second, it felt like “what to expect when you are expecting” because I knew I was going to be seeing the former President, Barrack Obama and I was not sure to expect.
The moment Barrack Obama was introduced to come on stage and I saw him take those few flights of stairs, it felt surreal. He looked so big on the screen yet so small in person. All I could think of was the picture I saw a while back of him before he resumed office in 2009 and what he looks like now. The room was filled with so much applause as he mounted the stage to take a seat.
The conversation with Barrack Obama began and I could tell everyone in the room was eager to listen as everyone paid close attention till someone shouted Joe Biden 2020. He was asked to talk on a number of issues and the following were my takeaways from the event.
America – Canada Relations
He laughed so hard when asked about America – Canada Relations, he described it as the tension between him and his wife. He went further to discuss that his approach to politics is similar to that of the current Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, but it is dissimilar with the current US administration.
The summary was basically the relationship between America and Canada would not change much with the current administration. He said half the time no one can really tell the difference between Canadians and Americans when they cross the border.
Embracing Identity and Keeping Your Culture
I loved it when he talked about embracing identity and keeping your culture, it resonated with me as someone who is of a minority race. The conversation allowed me to see things from a different perspective as he went on to explain his thoughts about embracing identity without using the word race, he said when we do not look alike, we think the other person is out to get us which results in conflict.
Of course, he could not have a conversation talking about minorities without talking about Kenya, his roots.
My biggest takeaway of the night from him was when he was asked what is the most important thing he thinks any Government should tackle, he was given a few options such as Poverty, Climate change and Environment. He said Climate change. The way he broke down climate change made me realize how much I did not know or maybe believe climate change. He broke it down like this – it is the same physics that creates your phone that dictates climate change. If you believe your phone works then why can’t people who struggle to understand climate change understand it is real. He further said you definitely need to read more if you know nothing about climate change. I definitely agree I do need to read more. This video on climate change is a starting point for understanding why discussions on climate change are important.
He had a lot to say to the younger people and he called us ‘Sophisticated Consumers’. He described his daughters, Malia and Sasha those as well, saying if they did not identify with the values of a company, they are likely not to stay employed with the company and even purchase their products as they owe no one any loyalty. If companies do not learn more about the current generation, some organizations may go out of business.
Young people are hugely engaged in community development in contrary to what is assumed of them. They are not indifferent about changing the society, they have simply just lost faith in existing institutions.
He went further at the end of his conversation with Baker, to give two pieces of advice to the younger generation
- Good stuff does not happen fast. You have to learn to deal with setbacks. You are going to make mistakes and it’s okay except you are going to learn from it. Try a bunch of stuff and figure what works for you.
- It is okay to challenge the status quo. The goal is to create a better community and it would not happen if the status quo is not challenged.
To see highlights from the night, go check out my Instagram story here.