Yes it’s true, on Wednesday 29 March 2023 I had the privilege of meeting Barack Obama.

I admit it was brief. I got to say hello and welcome him back to Australia. He asked my name and said “very good to meet you Rob”, we had our photo taken together, I thanked him for being a sensible president in a complicated world, and that was it!

He is impressive in person, very personable and positive, and after my brief encounter I got to sit metres from him as he was interviewed by Julie Bishop about his time as the 44th President of the USA and other things.

Where’s the photo I hear you say! I’ve got it (and it’s really good, even if I do say so myself) but it came with a big, long list of rules for it’s use and I don’t yet have permission to share in a newsletter, so another time, I hope.

My opportunity to meet Barack Obama came through The Growth Faculty, which many of you may know of. It’s a business that aims to connect Australians with the worlds strategic thinkers and high achievers for personal and professional development. For the appropriate fee I participated in a VIP event limited to 100 people with a private cocktail party, a meet and greet with Barack Obama then hearing him speak. To participate you had to pass a background security check weeks ahead, test negative for COVID and pass through airport style security, all while watched over by various people who fitted the stereotypical appearance of a secret service agent!

I found it really interesting the breadth of people who were wanting to invest in this. The people I met at the cocktail party included a doctor, a nurse, a hairdresser, an accountant, a fin tech guy and day to day people who were big fans of Barack Obama and felt compelled to grab the chance to meet him. I also met the uncle of an Australian lady who has worked as an assistant to Barack Obama for more than 10 years. What a job that would be!

It’s hard to ignore the significance of his achievement as the first black president of the USA and I am pleased to have had the experience.

Here’s a few things I noted while he spoke:

  • He believes that the likes of Putin, Ping and other world leaders are causing “strongmen” around the world to feel cocky – there is a lot of “old style” governing going on based on violence, coercion and power.
  • Despite all the troubles in various parts of the world (refer above) he is optimistic about the future and has faith in the next generation of leaders coming through – he has established the Obama Foundation to help find and support these leaders. Welcome to the Obama Foundation
  • The high point of his presidency was passing the Obamacare legislation.
  • The low point was the Sandy Hook mass shooting – he visited the school and said it was the first time he’d seen his secret service detail openly cry – he also said he tried as hard as he could to get change around guns but was not able to.
  • He encouraged each of us to think about what we want to do (achieve) rather than what we want to be come – don’t focus on the office but rather what you want to achieve by getting there.

He is a charismatic speaker, injected some humour and it was an excellent evening!

An example of his humour was when Julie Bishop asked him what advice he’d give to the younger people in the stadium (John Cain Arena, Melbourne) His response was something like “to believe that if you focus on goals and persevere you will be able to achieve great things….oh and picking a good partner in life matters too – that worked out real well for me!” (There was no sign of Michelle Obama at the event.)