Friday 31 May, 2019
The Canadian Tire Centre on Palladium Road was filled to the rafters as global icon and former U.S. President Barack Obama came to town. Titled “A conversation with President Barack Obama”, the event was hosted by Canada 2020, an independent think-thank based in Ottawa. Interviewed by Tobias Lütke, CEO of Shopify, in front of some 16,000 who had packed the famed hockey arena, Obama was at his suave, elegant, eloquent and totally engaging best as he fielded questions about his political career, his family and his thoughts on the state of the world. Despite an interviewer who was obviously more comfortable in corporate boardrooms than holding a microphone, Obama was at his charming best, a master of his craft, starting with his take on what it was to be married to Michelle Obama, to which he deadpanned: “It means I don’t have to work anymore! ” He however regarded his biggest achievement as bringing up his two daughters as well grounded children, imbued with the core values that he and his wife had always lived with.
He evoked some nostalgia as he spoke of his first Senate contest and the now renowned speech at the Democratic National convention in 2004, which launched his ultimate successful march to the White House. Asked about what advice he would give to any young person aspiring to a political career, he said: “Do not worry about what you want to be, but about what you want to do.” Wise words indeed.
The President was at his diplomatic best when asked about his take on the ongoing NBA finals between the US-based Golden Warriors and the Toronto Raptors. He opined how he admired the two teams and cited the philanthropic works by key players from either side, for his Foundation and other charities and said he looked forward to an entertaining contest between two teams he much admired.
Obama’s take on the state of the world after he left the White House was one of cautious optimism, citing his experience in countries across the world where he had met and engaged young people bubbling with enthusiasm and passion for a world filled with hope and promise.
All these and more from a totally entertaining evening that seemed to end too soon, such was the manner in which this amazing global icon engaging an adoring audience in Canada’s national capital.