Former President Barack Obama: Listening, Open-Mindedness Are Key to Growth, Change
News| | By Brad Kallet
As the left and the right — and everything and everyone in between — continue to foster divisiveness in the United States, former President Barack Obama has a message: Have an open mind and, quite simply, listen to each other.
Speaking to hundreds of young leaders at the first Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, No. 44 gave a powerful speech — something he’s been known to do — about how to grow and work together to make progress.
“I want you to have a strong point of view, and don’t be afraid to articulate it,” Obama said. “But make sure that when you disagree, you’re not disagreeable. … Real change comes through persuasion and openness to others. And if your starting point is, ‘You don’t get me because’ — ‘You can’t get me because you’re not a woman, you can’t get me because you’re straight, you can’t get me because you’re black, you can’t get me because you’re white’ — if that’s your initial starting point, then you will not grow and you certainly will not help the person next to you grow. So have a point of view, be rooted in your experiences, and don’t be afraid to share those. But listen; be open. Don’t be partisan because our goal here is not to create a political movement.
“Some of you may be aspiring politicians, and I believe firmly in politics, but I also believe that the moment we’re in right now, politics is the tail and not the dog. And what we need to do is to think about our civic culture because what’s wrong with our politics, in part, is a reflection of something wrong in our civic culture — not just here in the United States, but in many places around the world.”
The president, always one to add some levity when making a serious proclamation, also made a joke about having been born in Kenya. (He was, of course, born in Hawaii and began his career in Chicago.) It — predictably — got a good laugh from the adoring crowd.
What do you think of the president’s message? Is he right on point? Can we get back to reasonable discourse and listening, or are people just too fired up and biased by their own beliefs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section and be sure to SHARE this story.