Former President Barack Obama gave a speech Tuesday in Milan, Italy, at a summit on food innovation. During a question-and-answer session after the speech, Obama may have tossed in a dig at people who didn’t show up to the polls in November.
“You get the politicians you deserve,” Obama said without mentioning President Trump. “And if you don’t vote and you don’t participate and you don’t pay attention, then you’ll get policies that don’t reflect your interests.”
The comments came during a discussion about leadership.
“The mark of a good leader is somebody who is able to empower other people,” Obama said. “So often we think of leadership as somebody at the top who is ordering other people around … but it turns out, for me at least, what made me understand leadership was when I could see somebody who thought they didn’t have a voice, thought they didn’t have influence or didn’t have power, and teach them how to speak up on the things that were affecting their lives.”
“Politicians can help guide policy,” he added. “But change is going to come from what people do every day.”
The 55-year-old former president, who signed a record book deal in March, said he is spending most of his time lately working on a memoir, “fighting Michelle for closet space” and carving out the “next phase” of his political career: empowering “an effective network of global activists.”
“When I was president, wherever I would go, I would meet with young people,” Obama said. “And it would always give me energy and inspiration to see how much talent and sophistication and optimism and idealism existed among young people.”
“The problem is so often young people’s voices aren’t heard, and when they want to get involved on issues, they don’t know how and they don’t have the tools,” Obama continued.
The goal of the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center, he said, is “to provide them the tools, the training, the networks, the relationships, the funding, so that they can be even more effective. That’s probably what I’m going to be spending most of the next 10 years on.”
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