It was perhaps a dream come true for 280 young Indian leaders and entrepreneurs — out of the 8,000 who had applied — as they got a chance to meet former US President Barack Obama in Delhi on Friday. These leaders, hailing from different parts of the country, gathered in the capital for a town hall meeting organised by The Obama Foundation.
“I always ask people who’re the three people they want to see or meet before they die. President Obama was number one on my list. Can’t believe I got to attend The Obama Foundation Townhall in Delhi today!,” an excited Pooja Dhingra, entrepreneur and pastry chef, posted on Instagram.
So what was the agenda of the town hall? Well, the charismatic leader, who has a fan following around the globe, is now helping young leaders by finding ways to aid them in their field of work. It isn’t surprising that he chose to visit India — after all, we have the biggest youth population in the world.
The event was hosted by Anshul Tewari, young entrepreneur and founder of Youth Ki Awaaz. His Facebook post said: “This was a wonderful moment for me, for Youth Ki Awaaz’s journey to be featured by The Obama Foundation. Our mission of enabling thousands to speak up remains stronger than ever.”
Akshay Saxena, founder of Avanti Learning Centres, posted on Facebook just ahead of the event: “The Obama Foundation town hall is a lot more intimate than I had expected it to be. Waiting…”
The wait was certainly worth it, we can tell. Barack Obama is a great orator so when he finally took the stage, he commanded attention with his casual, yet impactful speech.
Here are the key takeaways:
1. Young India
Obama addressed a bunch of young changemakers and placed emphasis on their raw potential. Addressing the millennials, he said, “India has got the largest population of young people. There has never been a better time to be a young person.” Well, spot on, sir!
2. The US-India Legacy
Commenting on the legacy of India and the US, he drew parallels between the two countries and said that we had a lot in common, such as, a diverse set of people, languages, ethnicities and backgrounds. In this case too, he highlighted the role that young Indians could play in the growth and development of the country.
3. The Change Process
A quick-fact that you might already know — Obama was the first black President of the US and also the first American President to be a chief guest at Indian Republic Day parade.
The man did not shy away from using an example of racial-segregation in the US and discrimination towards the black people while talking about change. He said that change is a slow process and suggested that we divided our problems so as to manage them better.
4. Obama Foundation’s Goal
Responding to a question, he clarified that his foundation’s goal was not to provide direct services. “Our goal is to identify young leaders like yourself (member of audience), who are providing services or doing direct work, and then giving you the tools to help scale up and succeed,” he added.
5. Communal Harmony
Before addressing the town hall in Delhi, Obama had met PM Narendra Modi. His message to our PM was that India should not be divided on communal grounds — a very important point, indeed.
Obama’s visit to India and his town hall meeting sends a strong message to all young Indian changemakers, who are working on different models to solve different problems. It reaffirms the faith in Indian millennials and is an acknowledgement of their efforts.
The dynamic leader, who served as the US President for two consecutive terms, stands for progressive values that the youth needs to follow for their progress and growth.
Kartik Desai, executive director at Asha Impact summarised it like this: “What an inspiration, what insights and perspective, what a personality! If only our country had leaders who are even 10% of what this man is. Hats off Mr Obama and thank you for inviting us to this discussion for changemakers.”
Barack Obama’s two-hour long session covered important topics like technology, social media and gender issues. There were also some light moments, when he tried to speak in Hindi; Mr Obama sure knows how to make people laugh!
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Image Credit: Obama.org