A Conversation with President Barack Obama
March 5, 2019
Location: Vancouver Convention Centre West
On March 5, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBOT) hosted “A Conversation with Barack Obama” at which the 44th President of the United States reflected on his time in office and share his political perspective with an enthusiastic audience. CPABC was proud to be a community sponsor of this sold-out event, which took place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.
The event opened with a performance by musician Sarah McLachlan, after which GVBOT board chair and CPABC president and CEO, Lori Mathison, FCPA, FCGA, LLB, greeted the enthusiastic crowd and provided introductory remarks. GVBOT president and CEO Iain Black then welcomed Mr. Obama to the stage.
The ensuing conversation between the two men touched on the former president’s time in office, then moved on current issues such as the challenges of global warming. On the topic of climate change, Mr. Obama noted that while there is about a two-decade window remaining during which people can take the planet in a “smarter direction” he believes this can be done.
Mr. Obama also discussed the effects of globalization and automation on the middle class, emphasizing the importance of managing this change in a way that is both inclusive and takes advantage of the benefits of technology. He also stressed the importance of investing in education to address changing employment conditions and growing economic inequality.
Referring to the topic of Canada/US relations, the former president said that he views the two countries as firm friends and allies. He noted that as Western democracies the two countries have grown more inclusive over time – a quality that is now at risk. “For all of us who are lucky enough to live in these countries and be citizens in these countries … that’s really important,” he said.
Wrapping up his address, Mr. Obama discussed education- and leadership-focused initiatives that he hopes to undertake in the future. He also reflected on life after presidency, saying the adjustment back to “normal” life for him and his wife was relatively seamless: “We didn’t really become national figures until we were in our 40s. We enjoyed a normal life for a long time…We didn’t believe our own hype.”
Mr. Obama left the crowd with a message that focused of hope and creating positive change, saying, “You have to choose now because the world has never been wealthier, better educated, healthier, less violent – more educated, more tolerant than it is today. There’s still so many problems out there, but in any case, the trajectory of human progress has been significant and extraordinary.”
As President, Mr. Obama’s leadership brought about a stronger economy and a more equal society. His accomplishments included passing the Affordable Care Act, which provided health insurance to millions of citizens, and lowering employment rates as the country emerged from the 2008 recession.