Obama’s Winnipeg go to marked by humor, hockey references
WINNIPEG-Barack Obama visited Winnipeg on Monday to discuss his term in office and the current state of American politics.
Although never mentioned by name, the Trump administration emerged as a clear subtext of Obama’s hour-long conversation with interviewer Michael Burns, President and CEO of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation.
About an hour before Obama took the stage at Bell MTS Place in downtown Winnipeg on Monday night, a long line of visitors snaked through the city’s skywalks as they waited to enter the arena.
The sold-out event, sponsored by the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, brought a total of 13,500 people to see the 44th President of the United States, according to Alana Cuma, executive vice president of the chamber.
Obama’s characteristic speaking style – long sections of speech, interrupted by frequent pauses – came into its own. In his speech on the home of the Winnipeg Jets, Obama was alternately reserved and thoughtful throughout the interview. The former president’s conversation also included loads of humor and hockey references.
“You should be used to these breaks that I have by now,” said Obama. “It’s this weird way I speak that is why people can impersonate me on late night comedy shows.”
Winnipeg Free Press Editor Paul Samyn opened the event with famous one-liners from previous presidents including Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln.
“For the past century and a half, the words of presidents have been on our front pages a lot,” Samyn told attendees. “Their speeches, their press conferences, their interviews and yes, even their tweets made headlines because a president’s words matter.”
Later, when Obama answered Burns’ questions about his first term in office in 2009, the former president said he came into office with “some kind of old-fashioned educational values of fact, reason and logic” – an answer that met with thunderous applause was interrupted.
“That sounds too easy,” Burns said jokingly.
“I know. Shocking,” replied Obama.
The former president also said that “integrity” is one of the most important characteristics of his staff.
“When we got into office, we had sorted out the mercenaries and the … people in them for the money, the dates, or the business. They just weren’t there anymore, “said Obama.
The former president also spoke about a sense of insecurity pervading societies around the world. In times of uncertainty, Obama said, people tend to “fall back on the tribe”.
“The world is now preoccupied with creating a global community that values our differences and our unique cultures, but also recognizes what we have in common. And that’s a difficult thing, ”he said. “Right now, I think what you’re seeing is bringing the older tribal suspicions to the fore.
But before delving into politics, Obama opened the conversation by pointing out that he had the opportunity to meet the owner of the jets, Mark Chipman, an AND alumnus. Obama also made some joking remarks about the Chicago Blackhawks, whose captain Jonathan Toews played for the UND.
“My Blackhawks are last but our captain is from Winnipeg. … So thank you Winnipeg for this great gift to the city of Chicago,” said Obama.
Towards the end of the conversation, Obama talked about starting a new Obama Foundation company to deal with social issues around the world.
“When I was ready to leave office, I was 55 years old, so I would probably have a third act,” Obama said. “And I had to ask myself what was my highest and best use?”
The former president said he hoped the new company would serve as a “university for social change”.
He recalled telling his wife, Michelle, “Instead of just building a library and looking back, let’s create a center that trains the next generation of leaders at all levels.”
“If we train them, give them skills and support … then they will be the ones driving the solutions we so desperately need,” he said.
When asked if he would consider running for office in Canada, Obama jokingly said that re-election to an elected office would put his marriage at risk.
“I know a lot of you think the reason I didn’t run for a third term (as US President) is because the US Constitution forbids it, but it was Michelle who made me most of all prevented it, “said Obama.
How for an appointment to the Canadian Senate?
“Maybe not until July,” joked the former president.
Daniel Gurevich, a Winnipeg resident who spoke to the Herald after attending the event, said the interview was “a nice mix of (Obama’s) views on politics, his views on the future, along with some humor and a little lightness also in it ”. . “
Gurevich said he would have liked to hear more discussions on economics, but admitted that the speaker “only had that much time”.