KUALA LUMPUR: Former US president Barack Obama spoke about straddling the balance between idealism and being practical at the Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia Pacific Friday (Dec 13).
"Even when I got the Paris Accord signed, I knew that the standards we had set weren't sufficient. If I looked at the science of it all, I still would have despaired," he said.
"But I understood it was about setting the course. Just having the mechanism in place, we had created the ability to adjust the standards in the future."
The United States has since pulled out of the Paris Accord.
Obama was speaking at the conference with his half-sister Dr Maya Soetoro-Ng, who is also a consultant for the Obama Foundation, as part of a five-day leadership development programme for over 200 young leaders across the Asia-Pacific.
Obama shared how in his first six months as president, he noticed that the women staff – even those who were seniors –barely spoke during meetings.
"There were more experienced but the men were more vocal and opinionated.
"I played my part by directly asking their input based on their experience, and when they spoke, they had amazing insights," he said.
"Men in the room, if your organisation has no female leadership, you are part of the problem and you need to push to become part of the solution. The women in the room, you need to push to be more assertive," he urged.
During the two hour-long plenary session, Obama reflected on the state of the world and how change is a long game.
"We have gone through really bad times in human history. Every country has a history that is painful and that should give us some perspective," he said.
"The world now has never been as well educated, as wealthy, as healthy, as tolerant and as less-violent (sic) as now. While we do move a step back and forward now and then, the general trajectory is positive," he said.
The conference, which ends on Saturday, (Dec 14), is attended by 200 young leaders across 33 nations and territories in Asia Pacific, who had been selected for a one-year leadership development programme by the Obama Foundation.
Earlier in the week, other prominent speakers including former US first lady Michelle Obama, actress Julia Roberts, Mongolian MP Dr Oyun Saanjasuren, and Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh conducted plenary sessions on topics such as female empowerment and ethical leadership.
There are 14 participants from Malaysia who were selected for the fellowship programme, including The Star's R.AGE deputy executive editor Ian Yee, True Complexion founder Rozella Mahjhrin, Tribeless founder Gwen Yi Wong, and Raintree Development co-founder and CEO Zoe Ng.