“INDIVIDUALS cannot solve problems such as climate change on their own. Not in your lifetime,” said former United States president Barack Obama.

The best one can do, he said, is to work and try to advance as best as one can, while understanding that sometimes, one cannot finish the job.

“We essentially run the race (and) carry the baton, then we pass (it) to the next runner, who has to go forward,” he said.

“It is understandable that when you are young, you feel a sense of urgency but (you) also have to understand that that’s going to be (it),” he said.

Obama was replying to questions from participants at the Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific Programme after his plenary session today on “How the Asia-Pacific Shaped Us”, moderated by his half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng in Kuala Lumpur today.

Obama said he was satisfied that he had set up mechanisms that had turned up standards and sent signals to business enterprises to start investing in more clean energy.

“And, that is how change is going to happen, and it is not just for climate change. If you’re concerned about poverty in the country, your country is not going to be not poor overnight… If you’re concerned about women’s equality, women are not going to be equal in every society overnight. Or anti-corruption, whatever it is, you will have setbacks.”

He also touched on his time in the White House, where he said people felt if they could not get 100% of what they wanted, they would just not bother about it.

He said people rarely got 100% of what they wanted, because the world is too complicated.

“I used to tell my staff, we will make things better. Because better is good.”

Former US president Barack Obama taking questions from the crowd at the plenary session in Kuala Lumpur today. – EPA pic, December 13, 2019.
Former US president Barack Obama taking questions from the crowd at the plenary session in Kuala Lumpur today. – EPA pic, December 13, 2019.

Obama also shared with the audience a personal leadership lessons, which he said was surrounding himself with people willing to tell him if he was wrong or that questioned him.

“If all you have is people who are ‘yes’ people all the time, (who will) laugh at all your jokes – oh yes, Mr President, what brilliant insights, you’re fantastic – not only are you not going to improve, you’re going to make big mistakes,” he said.

He encouraged young leaders to be confident enough to know that one cannot know everything, and that it was fine to learn from others.

The session is part of the Leaders programme, which includes skill-building workshops, leadership development training and opportunities to connect with leaders across all sectors.

Earlier this week, Obama’s wife, Michelle, and Hollywood star Julia Roberts spoke at plenary sessions for the programme.

The Obamas have dedicated much of their time to the non-profit Obama Foundation, which includes the Girls Opportunity Alliance initiative Obama recently promoted in Vietnam.

– Bernama