Wearing a navy blue suit and a crisp white shirt Barack Obama entered Bell MTS Place Monday like a rock star.
The crowd of about 13,500 people roared for the 44th President of the United States on his Winnipeg stop on his ‘A Conversation with President Barack Obama’ tour.
Moderator Michael Burns, former CEO of the Invictus Games, started the conversation by asking Obama about his family, specifically his wife Michelle.
“She is a star and rightfully so,” Obama said.
“Michelle, as you may have heard, wrote a book. It’s doing OK,” he said with a laugh.
He said his children are doing very well and stressed that their generation has a few things figured out, like not treating people differently based on their race or sexual orientation.
Obama said there is a danger in the United States and around the world with politics being driven by passions disconnected from facts.
While never mentioning current U.S. President Donald Trump, Obama says he’s worried if there was a major crisis today, the response may not follow common sense or practicality.
Obama said major changes are truly grassroots driven.
“Ultimately change is going to come from the people,” he said.
“If citizens insist on integrity, if citizens insist on facts and if citizens participate, that’s how change happens.”
He also gave advice on what makes a good organization, or what should be part of a good team.
“People ask me a lot about leadership and what are the qualities of putting together an effective organization and it’s a cliché but it’s the people that matter,” he said.
He continued that there are a few key factors you have to think when building a team, looking for people with integrity, a diversity of views, people who are competent and to not be afraid if you’re not the smartest person in the room.
“I would be in the Situation Room or some big meeting and would say until you can explain it to me, we aren’t going anywhere,” he said.
He also spoke about his relationship with his Canadian counterparts — Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau.
“Both Stephen and Justin and I had terrific relationships,” he said.
“Partly because the United States and Canada, let’s face it we are cousins, we are family.”
He joked that one of the problems we have here in Canada is we have specific issues that aren’t on the priority page of other countries.
Saying Trudeau would call him about “certain things that are important to you that nobody cares about” like timber.
True North Sports and Entertainment said other than tickets to Metallica, Obama’s tickets sold faster than any other events at Bell MTS Place in recent years.
Those who paid the price to attend were not disappointed. Some people leaving the venue afterward said he could have talked more about present-day events, but were otherwise thrilled with the experience.
“He didn’t really discuss a lot of current events, it was a lot of reflection on his time as president, I thought it was great.”
“You felt he was talking to you, and not thousands of people in a group. It was very well worth it.”
“I had to use all my self control to not run up the isle and shake his hand.”
Several fans said listening to the conversation gave them hope for the future.
“If the rest of the world would listen to him, we’d be a much better place.”
“[He] talked a lot about the young people and how the young people are going to change the world in a positive way.”
“He’s probably never even heard of us but he was willing to come here and give us an amazing speech, he inspired me, oh my goodness I wanna go do things out there now!”
Obama will speak in Calgary on Tuesday.
-With file from The Canadian Press