President Barak Obama: “People I Have Met and Their Stories”

The following short video of President Barak Obama’s interview with Ingrid Nilsen I shared on Facebbook recently got me thinking….

In the video, President Obama talks about how he has a “bowl full of things” that different people have given him at different times in different places, some of which he carries in his pocket.

He shows and talks about the ones he has in his pocket, describing what it is and who gave it to him etc. Watch, it’s quite touching!

President Obama is considerably more sensitive than the US presidents I have known in my life.

After all, he had considerable international experience as a youngster, he is bi-racial (and NOT black) and has a multi-cultural background. He attended an international school when he was living in Indonesia, for instance, and spent several years as a student in Hawaii! Born of a Kenyan father and a white American mother, he has a number of step-brothers and sisters. One of them, a half-Indonesian step-sister, is a professor at the University of Hawaii, whose class I had the pleasure of presenting to during my visit to the island last October.

President Obama is considerably more sensitive than the US presidents I have known in my life. Click To Tweet

Not surprisingly, he is considerably more attuned to the beliefs and values of others. He obviously can relate to considerably wider range of Americans and others. Not surprisingly, he has not shied away from displaying his feelings and emotions in public, showing profound empathy for those suffering, for instance.

Is it any wonder then that he has been such a different President compared to his predecessor?

Is it any wonder then that he has accomplished as much as he has?

The progress his presidency made with the economy, the national debt, the stock market, unemployment etc., even with the Republican-controlled Congress (both the House of Representatives and Senate) working against him all the time, is mainly due to his person. In spite of the sustained attacks on his person and his office from all the many quarters and in spite of the constant obstruction from Congress, the dignified way he (and his family) has conducted himself is testimony to his character and person (and that of his wife).

Sure, there are a number of issues of international concern that he and his office hasn’t adequately addressed, such as Guantanamo, Drone Program and both national and international surveillance programs etc.

But, returning to how the video got me thinking…it forced me to ask myself, “What do you have that reminds you of the people you have met in your life and why they are important?”

Moving around as often as I have, from when I left Nepal for the first time in 1988, it was just as well that I discovered I wasn’t very good at accumulating objects and things! Plus, it was just as well that the people I met along the way didn’t give me things.

I wouldn’t have been able to hoard anyway! Crossing borders and continents as often as I did — I had thirty residential address in fourteen cities in ten countries spread over five continents in 25 years — I wouldn’t have been able to hold on to them anyway! All I moved around with were, mostly, just my clothes and books/teaching resources!

What they did give me, which I carry along with me at all times, have been memories…memories of how they touched me, memories of how they taught me, which many of them probably don’t know about!

And that is what living, working, studying and traveling different countries leave you with…memories and experiences, incredibly educational experiences, one of the consequences of which is, as appears to have happened with President Obama, the ability to relate to others, empathise and believe in a shared destiny.

Living, working, studying and travelling in different countries leave you with memories & experiences...incredibly educational experiences. Click To Tweet

Do you carry anything with you? If so what and why? Feel free to share.


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References (added after the publication of the blog post):

I learned about the American’s expanded Drone strike program when I was working in Qatar. Stories of strikes in Yemen reached me because of the proximity of the country to Qatar, the one that I remember very clearly was the strike on an American citizen in Yemen. The documentary Dirty Wars is all about the secret war waged with drones.


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