Former first lady Michelle Obama and Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts sat down for a conversation with Malaysian TV host and founder of Fugee School Deborah Henry at a plenary session on Dec 12, the third day of the inaugural Leaders: Asia-Pacific programme of the Obama Foundation. Leaders, which takes place in Kuala Lumpur from Dec 10 to 14, involves young 200 leaders from across the region, who will be involved in a virtual leadership programme aimed at making positive change in their communities.
The ladies spoke about various things, foremost of which was educating girls, a subject close to the heart of Obama, who launched the Girls Opportunity Alliance last year. Educating girls is akin to giving them a light that can lead them to a bigger world than the one they know. Education gives them a voice, and choice, and a sense of belief in themselves. Nurture that belief and the girl will grasp the opportunities open to her and make something of her life.
They focused on values, vision and inspiration and how important it is for the young to have someone believe in them. There has to be continuity when one works with children, Obama emphasised, and mentors should be prepared to follow up and reinforce whatever the message want to convey.
She said it is important to be happy with small victories and that leaders have to be prepared to accept the fact that they may not see the results of their work in their lifetime. Even so, the everyday things they do can make a big difference to somebody.
The pair also touched on women setting aside time for themselves, finding joy in what they do, working on their relationship with their spouses, and not to believe people who tell them that they are not capable of doing something.
Among the speakers at Leaders are Deputy Minister of Women, Family and Community Development Hannah Yeoh, AirAsia founder Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes, Singapore Administrative Service member Aaron Maniam, and chief international officer at the Obama Foundation, Bernadette Meehan.
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