KUALA LUMPUR – “Individuals cannot solve problems such as climate change on their own. Not in your lifetime,” said former United States president Barack Obama.
The best one can do, he said, was to work and try to advance as best as one can, understanding the fact that one will not finish the job.
“We essentially run the race (and) carry the baton, then we pass to the next runner who has to go forward,” he said
“It is understandable that when you are young, you feel a sense of urgency but (you) also have to understand that that’s going to be,” he said.
Obama was replying to questions from participants at the Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific Programme after his plenary session today on “How the Asia-Pacific Shaped us” which was moderated by his half-sister Maya Soetoro-Ng
Obama said he was satisfied that he had set up the mechanism which turned up standards and sent signals to business enterprises which started investing in more clean energy because they saw change coming.
“And that is how change is going to happen and it is not just for climate changes. If you’re concerned about poverty in the country, your country is not going to be not poor overnight…If you’re concerned about women’s equality, women are not going to be equal in every society overnight. Or anti-corruption, whatever it is, you will have setbacks.”
He also spoke of the time when he was in the White House, where people felt if they could not get 100 per cent of what they wanted, they would just not bother about it.
He said people rarely got 100 per cent of what they wanted, because the world was too complicated.
“I used to tell my staff, we will make things better. Because better is good.”
Obama also shared with his audience one of his leadership lessons, which is surrounding himself with people who are willing to tell him if he is wrong or to question him.
“If all you have is people who are “yes” people all the time, (who will) laugh at all your jokes…oh yes Mr President, what brilliant insights, you’re fantastic, not only you’re not going to improve, you going to make big mistakes,” he said.
He encouraged young leaders to be confident enough to know that one doesn’t know everything and it was fine to learn wisdom and experience from others.
The session is part of the Leaders programme, which would also have skill-building workshops, leadership development training, and opportunities for connection among leaders across sectors and geography.
Earlier this week, Obama’s wife Michelle and Hollywood star Julia Roberts spoke at plenary sessions for the programme.
The Obamas have dedicated much of their time to the non-profit Obama Foundation, which includes the Girls Opportunity Alliance initiative that Obama promoted in Vietnam.