The former 44th president of the United States sat down with television host and celebrity Dave Kelly at the Scotiabank Saddledome. The talk, "A Conversation with Barack Obama," explored a wide range of topics including Obama’s family, the next generation, his time in the White House and the need for action to be taken in terms of climate change.
As Obama walked through the purple satin curtains and to the front of the stage, the venue filled with approximately 14,000 people roared as guests stood up from their seats.
Assuming the former president would dive straight into the conversation of politics, he instead showed them a different side by discussing what makes him so relatable.
Obama spoke about how a normal day for him involved a family dinner at 6:30 p.m. every night. His daughter’s would tell him about their day and they would all enjoy some much-valued family time. This enabled him to take his mind off countless issues and feel more connected to his life outside of the office.
After dinner, the girls would be off to do their homework and he would head back to work. Obama said he regularly remained working until 2 a.m. each day before heading to bed.
Throughout the conversation with Kelly, Obama continued to show his admiration for his family. He said that with their help, he was able to be driven, honest and grounded at all times.
“On my deathbed, I will not be remembering the speech I gave or the legislation I passed. I will remember taking my daughters to the park or laughing at something Michelle said.”
Obama said his daughters continue to keep him focused on the future of the planet and making the world more inclusive.
He claims that we have made so much progress and that the next generation is more inclusive of others than ever seen before. He said that his own daughters would never minimize others for things they can’t change and that doing so is simply unheard of to them.
As for the state of the planet, Obama said it is evident that it is on young people’s minds.
“The next generation is much more tolerant, open-minded and sophisticated,” said Obama.
Amongst the crowd was Jade Lalanne, 18, who was accompanied by her friend for this event.
“He is so straightforward, optimistic and grounded. He’s close with his family, that’s what makes him human and that’s what makes us relate to him,” said Lalanne.
After Kelly asked a question about Calgary’s strength in oil and gas, Obama ultimately used the topic to challenge Albertans to take action. He focused on the concept that the world is faced with climate change now more than ever.
Obama went on to tell the arena that even though Alberta is oil country, Albertans must move towards a much more sustainable energy source. He assured Calgarians that this transition will be undeniably tough, but well worth it in the long run.
“Oil and gas powered the industrial revolution, Canada, The United States and the entire world. It is still the cheapest means to power we have,” said Obama.
“Now how do we create a ramp in places like Alberta, recognizing new energy sources and cleaning up the old?”
The solution Obama offered would rely on Albertans to make tough choices and to choose between environmental or economic gain. His rationale was that without the environment Alberta would have no need for economic growth.
Obama suggested that including younger Canadians in the conversation would benefit everyone involved. He added that having a team of people with diverse perspectives allows for the most favourable outcome.
When creating his own team, he made sure each person possessed integrity and wanted to be apart of the cause. He did not let intimidation stand in the way of having people who were smarter than him sit around his table.
Above this, he also made sure he was not afraid to ask questions that would include diverse opinions. This team then aided Obama in filling in each blind spot as best as possible while each issue presented itself.
“If you only interact with people that are “woke” how do you wake anyone else up?"
Obama maintains this way of thinking even after his time as the president, and he wanted to remain an active member of society.
A motto that inspires him stemmed from a phrase that he often focused much attention to: “be kind and be useful.”
Moving forward, Obama plans to continue possessing an energy of interest and joy in life. He remains positive and asks everyone in the world to simply believe.
He continues to recognize the importance of education and inspiring the next generation. Obama sees this to be evident since young people have been a part of many historical changes.
“Martin Luther King was 25, Mandela was young,” said Obama.
“That’s why we are training the next generation, but it’s not just a matter of sending a tweet or a hashtag. We actually have to do a little more than that.”
- By Vanessa Iula