The Obama Foundation today hosted a Town Hall in New Delhi. Former US President Barack Obama and hundreds of young Indian leaders from across the country were in attendance. The Town Hall focused on the conversation about the importance of being an active citizen and creating an impact in the world. It focused on how the Obama Foundation can support young leaders toward this end.

Obama began the Town Hall and said, “Let me see if I can’t get this right “Bahut Dhanyavad” amid a huge applause from the crowd.

Here are 15 note-worthy observations he made.

1. Speaking about his foundation, he said, “The single most important thing I want to focus on is the next generation of leadership. That’s the central goal of the foundation.”

2. On the growth in global life expectancy Obama said, “Despite what newscasts will make you think, we’ve come a long way. If you could choose the time when you were born – you’d pick now. Despite remarkable cruelty and suffering, there is less violence This did not happen out of luck, it happened because people chose to make it happen”

3. Talking about social media, technology and its influence in education, he said, “So that basic principle, that right now I can reach millions of people just through writing a quick note on a device, allows us to get more information, more quickly, to more people, and then have them interact, that’s wonderful.”

4. He further added, “When it comes to training young people, it’s important to emphasize it doesn’t replace the importance of teachers. If the teacher is not incorporating the tech into the social context of which children are learning, then it’s not going to work.

5. Speaking of change, Obama stated, “Change is a slow process. It took 20 years to see the effects of ending racial segregation in the US after a Supreme Court verdict. We have to accept that change is hard. So divide your problems into bite-sized pieces and make sure you are listening to the people you want to help.”

Barack Obama

6. “Take time to have some fun, in the middle of your work. If you’re trying to do something good and important, you also have to create space to do something fun, sometimes do something that creates joy,” he said.

7. When asked by a transgender activist what the sexual minority of transgenders could do to have their voice heard, Obama said that the community needs to “find their voice and make it heard to articulate their views and tell their story”. He added “this is going to take time” saying that change would only come with perseverance.

8. He told the audience, “You cannot have a complete power in your organisation, you have to give it young people to bring a change.”

9. To a senior reporter, Obama said, “You don’t get a chance to question, you’re a journalist. Let the young ask the questions today.”

10. “Conflict, sound bites and tweets get more attention in the media and there is no dialogue. There is just a constant contest for attention across social media and airwaves,” he emphasized saying that constructive debate was losing its power in social media and broadcast. 

11. “You can’t be a purist if you want to bring change. You will never get a 100 percent of what you want. You will never get a 100 percent of justice. That is how change works in nature, That is how change works in societies,” he asserted while talking about incremental change.

12. “If you’ve spent time listening and finding out what it is that people themselves are concerned about, you will shape your efforts and your agenda in a way that people will be responsive to,” Obama said.

13. Criticism is important for change. Obama said that he constantly urged his staff to develop a thick skin to take criticism in order to bring about change. “If we walk away with some better, take it!”

14. “There are so many different ways to bring about change, to do good, and to help people. No one should feel limited to one way of doing it,” he added.

15. “The key is to find what is right for you and not just what feels as if you are having the most impact, but what is giving you the most strength and satisfaction,” he said. “Those small steps of courage, those single steps, will make India better and the world a better place.”

Before signing out, Obama shared one last bit of wisdom.

“There are so many different ways to bring about change, to do good, and to help people. No one should feel limited to one way of doing it.

“The key is to find what is right for you and not just what feels as if you are having the most impact, but what is giving you the most strength and satisfaction,” Obama said. “Those small steps of courage, those single steps, will make India better and the world a better place.”

Thank you for visiting us, Barack Obama. You are always an inspiration.