“You would pick now,” spoke a judicious Barack Obama in response to the hypothetical scenario of being able to live in any time in history.
The statement was a nod to a young generation of people inspired to create change in the world today and a recognition of the efforts and contributions from those who came before.
Social change was the theme at hand during “A Conversation with Barack Obama” at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg on Monday, March 4. Obama spoke in his trademark casual and intelligent manner, legs crossed, answering questions from Michael Burns, former CEO of the Invictus Games, who served as the evening’s moderator.
Obama talked first about family after moving out of the White House. When asked about his wife Michelle, his humble sense of humour set the tone for the evening.
“Michelle, as you may have heard, wrote a book. It’s doing OK.”
He spoke indirectly of the current administration and President of the United States, expressing concern over nations electing leaders based on passion rather than fact.
“If citizens insist on integrity, if citizens insist on facts and if citizens participate, that’s how change happens,” he said.
He gave recognition to how informed young people are on current issues and their desire to be politically active, referring specifically to survivors of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Older generations need give them space and power to make a difference.
“Ultimately, change is going to come from the people,” he said on the importance of grassroots movements. Politicians can’t be expected to lead movements, he said, but they will “jump to the front” of an already moving march.
He also stressed that today’s activists need to recognize past heroes who have fought for civil rights.
Despite steep ticket prices, there were many young people amongst the around 13,500 in attendance. The message for social justice, though, is for all.
Winnipeg was the first of three stops Obama made during his Canadian tour a few weeks back. He also paid visit to Calgary and Vancouver.