Be kind and be useful

Barack Obama looking into mirror before inauguration

From a seat high in the stands surrounded by a popcorn eating lunch crowd, I had the chance last week to hear former President Barack Obama answer some questions about lessons from his life.

What struck me most, whether we see Obama as collective or divisive depending on the issues he dealt with from race to healthcare to pipelines, is that he knows the importance of being real and being grounded.  Obama spoke about his own first four decades of living life out of the public eye before being “shot out of a cannon onto the world stage”.  Despite all the attention and “fuss”, he and his wife Michelle strived to live according to the values they held prior to the presidency.

From work to parenting, they chose a path for themselves based on what he learned from those he loved:

From his wife he learned Integrity: how to walk the talk.

From his mom he learned Empathy: the greatest teacher and healer of human experience.

From his children he learned Closeness: always making time for connection.

From his dad he learned about Jazz and the love and power of music and rhythm.

From himself he learned about Optimism: always looking for what is available.

So when you see yourself in the mirror on what might be a day (any day) that changes your own course in history, remember that we all need one another because as Obama recognised; we are more alike than different and you have the power to change everyone’s life around you.

It is in our youthful spirit that we see the possibility of hope changing the world for the better through the simple advice he gave his children: “be kind and be useful”.