Barack Obama has said he would like to create “a million young Barack Obamas” to take on the baton of “human progress”, during a discussion in Japan about his post-presidential life.
“The single most important thing I could do is to help develop the next generation,” he said.
The former US president said his nonprofit the Obama Foundation could create a “platform for young, up and coming leaders” to exchange information with each other about projects they were working on.
“If I could do that effectively, then – you know – I would create a hundred or a thousand or a million young Barack Obamas or Michelle Obamas,” Obama told a conference in Tokyo. “Or, the next group of people who could take that baton in that relay race that is human progress.”
Obama also talked about the potential for young people to bring about change, hailing Saturday’s March for our Lives gun-control demonstrations.
“This was all because of the courage and effort of a handful of 15- and 16-year-olds, who took the responsibility that so often adults had failed to take in trying to find a solution to this problem, and I think that’s a testimony to what happens when young people are given opportunities, and I think all institutions have to think about how do we tap into that creativity and that energy and that drive.
“Because it’s there. It’s just so often we say: ‘Wait your turn.’”
Obama had also tweeted his support on Saturday, writing: “Michelle and I are so inspired by all the young people who made today’s marches happen. Keep at it. You’re leading us forward. Nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.” Donald Trump has yet to comment personally on the marches, although the White House praised the demonstrators for exercising their right to free speech.
Obama also discussed the problem of social media walling off readers according to their political views.
“One of the things we’re going to be spending time on, through the foundation, is finding ways in which we can study this phenomenon of social media and the internet to see are there ways in which we can bring people from different perspectives to start having a more civil debate and listen to each other more carefully,” he said.
The former president also told the conference that denuclearisation negotiation with North Korea were difficult because the country’s isolation meant other countries had little leverage over it.
“North Korea is an example of a country that is so far out of the international norms and so disconnected with the rest of the world,” he said.
Obama has been cautious about criticising his successor, although he has made an exception for issues such as the travel ban on Muslim-majority countries and Trump’s heavily criticised remarks equating neo-Nazis with the protesters opposing them in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He was speaking at an event sponsored by a Japanese nonprofit group in Tokyo on Sunday.
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