President Obama Inspires at the CTC

All photos courtesy of Canada 2020

Which phrase should I use as they all apply? ‘He did it!’; ‘He came, he saw, he inspired!’; ‘He’s still got it!’

Take your pick!

The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, engaged in a discussion at the Canadian Tire Centre this past Friday night in front of audience of 12,000 and did not disappoint.

The event, put on by Canada 2020 and moderated by Shopify CEO Toby Lutke lasted a little over an hour. I don’t think it was every expected to be much longer than that. They discussed a variety of subjects.

Mr. Lutke served up the questions, President Obama answered, and while I am sure the questions were predetermined, it did not take away from the event. Let’s keep in mind that President Obama isn’t running for President, he already did that and won twice. What he has to offer is a perspective from a point of view that very few people can offer. He is a member of perhaps the most exclusive group on the planet, The Presidents Club, former Commander in Chiefs of the United States. More on that later.

He shared fond memories from his first visit to Canada. He mentioned that when he came to office the world was imploding and that "historically and traditionally the first foreign visit a President makes is to Canada," as "we are basically cousins, but slightly nicer."

One question was ‘What’s it like being married to Michelle Obama?’ Initially he joked and said it means he doesn’t have to work. ‘How many books have you sold lately honey?’ he joked. This question gave President Obama the opportunity to rave about his wife of close to 27 years. He discussed her beauty, her intelligence and her honesty. He talked about what a wonderful mother she was to their kids, Malia and Sasha, and by the time he was done praising her a loud ‘awwwww’ could be heard from one attendee. To have your partner speak about you the way President Obama speaks of Michelle was clearly a relationship goal.

Regarding business, he discussed having a public sector that creates a platform for entrepreneurs to succeed. He challenged the ideology that says that government is the problem by inviting those to go to a country that does not have a functioning government to see how successful their business will be.

He shared his optimism for the future. When pressed about the man who took over after he left he never mentioned him by name. Part of the code of The Presidents Club is that past Presidents do not speak ill of current Presidents while they are in office. It’s an unwritten rule, that for the most part has been respected and it was nice seeing him follow that principal. Instead he focussed on hope for the future and said ‘I believe the long-tern trajectory of humanity is in a positive direction. But you get the dark ages before the Renaissance.’

When he was asked about the NBA Finals and who he thought was going to win he steered the conversation to the players themselves and their philanthropic work.  I have had many conversations about the NBA Finals lately and the players involved but the former President discussed what these men did off the court that gained his respect.

The night ended as it started….with thunderous applause. Many of the people I spoke to after felt very inspired by the event.

On this visit, President Obama also found the time to connect with his friend Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Big Rig Brewery and take in Game 2 of the NBA Finals in Toronto.

Was his event in Ottawa the greatest presentation I have ever seen him partake in? No. But it was a reminder of why many miss this man so much. He wasn’t looking to take shots at anyone, he wasn’t attempting to sling mud, he was doing what he has done for most of his life, challenging us to be better.