All smiles: Obama greeting the participants at the YSEALI townhall session. — Bernama
KUALA LUMPUR: Meeting a select group of young leaders from Asean, US President Barack Obama inspired them with his experiences and told them to make an impact on the world.
“When I think back on my journey, the most important thing for me and to most young people here is to realise that you really can have an impact on the world.
“You can achieve your dreams but in order to do so, you have to focus not so much on titles or how much money you are going to make.
“You have to focus more on what kind of influence and impact you can have on other people’s lives ... what good you can do,’’ he told them in a 90-minute townhall address at Universiti Malaya yesterday.
The 103 participants representing the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) were joined by 300 others at the meeting, the first such held for the President’s four-nation tour.
Twenty of the workshop participants were from Malaysia, with some as young as 18.
Obama took questions from the group as well as from the social media by those who posted questions via the United States Embassy in Kuala Lumpur’s Facebook page and twitter.
The 44th President of the United States said he was excited to hear what the youth had to say and infected by their energy and optimism.
“I firmly believe you will make the future of your countries and of the region. The relationship between nations does not rest upon governments, it rests upon people, especially the young who will be the future,” the President said as he drove across his message.
Touching on the Malaysia Boleh spirit, Obama said urged Malaysian youth to carry that spirit forward.
“We have a similar saying in America, which is ‘Yes We Can’. That is the spirit I hope America and all South-East nations can work together in but it is going to depend on your generation to carry it forward.
The YSEALI is a brainchild of Obama to build relationships across South-East Asia through the engagement of young people.
Asked by a Myanmar participant about democratic process, Obama said all must be treated equally based on rule of law and and and principles of justice and not based on race or religion
Rights of the minorities including in countries such as Myanmar and Malaysia, he said, should be protected.
“Malaysia is a majority Muslim country. There are times where those who are non-Muslims find themselves perhaps being disadvantaged or experiencing hostility. No country is going to succeed if part of its population is put on the sidelines or discriminated against. Treat people the way you want to be treated.”