Obama & Gates: Leadership & World Change

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Obama & Gates: Leadership & World Change

Learn English with Obama and Gates’s Speech. In a conversation with President Barack Obama, Bill and Melinda Gates discuss leadership and what all individuals can do to create world change through intelligent ideologies and sustainable solutions. 

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Barack Obama “Quote”

Barack Obama Quotes: Leadership & World ChangeWe did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.

“We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it.” Barack Obama

Obama & Gates | FULL TRANSCRIPT:

I’m sorry guys that’s not going to work. If you want to get done what you’re talking about you will have to combine effective philanthropy and technical know-how and smart policy engineering with getting your hands dirty trying to change public opinion and trying to ensure that the people who are in charge of the levers of power are responsive.

Melinda Gates: Talk to us a little bit about how you think of movements around the world and the power of those now and what leaders can learn from them?

Barack Obama: Well, I’d make a couple of observations. Number one is that… most big change, most human progress is driven by young people who don’t know any better and figure why can’t we do something different.

Old people get comfortable or cranky or protective of their status or set in their ways. There is a reason why if you look at, for example, here in the United States, the civil rights movement. The leaders of those movements were in their 20s. Doctor King was 26 when he started, 39 when he was killed and if you, if you canvas the world oftentimes that is the impetus. People asking in ways that I think are familiar to many. Not, why not but or not why but why not. Why do things have to be the way they are? So that’s point number one that young people I think can make an enormous difference. Number two is that because most of us now, either live in democracies or countries that purport to be democracies, because we have won the battle of ideas that says governments and our common efforts have to be rooted in the legitimacy of people. There is more power than ever in people being able to band together and collectively push for initiatives that are going to make change in their lives.

That’s something that for most of human history was unimaginable. That is one of the amazing transitions that has taken place and you will notice that even in autocracies today there is at least the pretense of democracy because people believe that governments that are rooted in people are more legitimate. And we… that’s a battle we won and now have to make real, wherever we can. That’s point number two.

Point number three is simple math. In most places if you want to get something done, whether it’s a smarter climate change policy or health care for people or more funding for girls education, you’ve got to have a majority of people supporting it. You got to have votes. You have to have the allocation of resources and that requires mobilization and a game of addition rather than subtraction. So, and the fourth point I would make would be the internet now has turbocharged the capacity for us to develop movements in ways that we had not imagined before.

Now, the last thing I’ll say so that I don’t sound like I’m in the still in US Senate and filibustering… is… I guess a smaller point but a profound one that I tried to reinforce with my staff at every level of my public work and continue to do to this day. I actually think, organizing, mobilizing, starting movements, starts with a story. And you can’t create a story that moves large numbers of people unless you are able to listen and hear to the story of the person next to you. The story of your neighbors, the stories of your co-workers, the stories of your community, the story of people who are not like you. And so, one of the things that I think is important is for us to learn how to listen to each other and learn how it is that we came to be who we are, think the way we do, because that understanding of other people stories is how you end up ultimately forging bonds and creating the glue that creates movements. Every great movement… you think about Gandhi and in India. It started with his understanding of India’s story and his own story and seeing Indians in South Africa discriminated against and recognizing that there were traditions and myths and a power in those stories that ended up driving out the most powerful empire on earth. It wasn’t guns and increasingly that will be the case, and certainly that will be the case, if we’re able… if we want to move forward the sustainable development goals that we’re talking about is we’ve got to be able to tell a story of not only to big donors or politicians, but also to for example, people here in the United States who may feel, like look I’ve got my own problems why should I be worrying about somebody on the other side of the world?

Bill Gates: You have to say when we got in the philanthropy and particularly study global health. We were stunned at the progress. We had, we’d had no idea and it’s kind of amazing if you ask even very well-educated people, you know, what’s happened with vaccination? What’s happened with HIV? They don’t know the positive story and a little bit the news is always going to focus on the setbacks because that’s what happened that day the gradual progress doesn’t fit that paradigm and even people who raise money for these causes I have to say, you know, sometimes even some of the material we create is talking about the piece that remains as though it’s never improved. Do you have any thoughts on how we get this more positive sense of progress going? And what… how we would get that word out?

Barack Obama: Well look, you’re talking to somebody who for seven years tried to get the word out and nobody… at least about 40% of the country didn’t believe me until I was gone and then suddenly they believed it they said things were great. So, with that caveat I make a couple observations. One, you’re right Bill. There is… the nature of the media and maybe just the human brain is to fasten on what’s wrong not on what’s right. And I’m not sure we’re gonna be able to change that, right? Visual displays of a fire are much more interesting than just a building sitting there and so the fire is gonna make the news, the building sitting there nicely and people are walking their dogs in front of it and stuff that will not make the news. So, I don’t think that we can count on conventional media necessarily to spread the word. This is though where the power of the internet has not, I think, been harnessed the way it needs to be. Particularly when we think about young people and young audiences.

Malia and Sasha consume information differently than I do and I think that those of us who’ve been involved with policy work are still putting out these reports with pie charts and this and that and that’s not interesting to them but stories and visual representations of progress can go viral. There’s a hunger for it. It’s just that we don’t systematically think about it and so I think when the three of us were talking a while back I mentioned that one of the one of the areas that I’m deeply interested in is how do we build a digital platform whereby people can go to find out what’s happening that is moving the progress on issues and then activates them. Because I heard somebody, I think maybe Trevor, saying an important point what… I’m very interested in how online communities can move offline. How this incredible power to convene through hashtags and tweets and this and that and the other eventually leads to people meeting each other and talking to each other.

And I think that we have not fully tapped that as a way of spreading the word about progress that has been made. I also think it is important for us to put some friendly pressure on leaders to tell good stories and to make sure that we don’t… that we aren’t so rigid in our partisanship or ideologies that we are not willing to acknowledge and share when somebody who might be of a different political persuasion has done something really good even if it runs contrary to our short-term political interests, I mean, I always used to say as big as the differences were between me and my present predecessor George W. Bush, that what his administration initiated with PEPFAR was a singularly important achievement that we needed to sustain and build on. And I didn’t think that somehow detracted for me to say that somebody from another political party did something really smart and really good and deserve credit for it. And I feel as if these days with… within our political circles, that’s a hard thing for people to bring themselves to do.

Melinda Gates: One of the things that Bill and I had the great privilege of doing when you were in The White House late in your presidency was spending a little bit of casual time on a saturday night and your daughters were in and out of your home, Malia and Sasha, and you’ve been to our house earlier this summer and saw Rory and Phoebe, two of our three in and out of our house. Our daughter Jen is here in the front row. Tell me about…

Barack Obama: Jen’s like, thanks, mom.

Melinda Gates: Yeah, sorry.

Barack Obama: That’s our job to embarrass you. That’s what we do.

Melinda Gates: But you know, Jen’s about the age of your girls a little bit older but how have you and Michelle thought about talking to your children about being leaders in the world and taking up this mantle of what needs to be done in the world?

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