He may have left New Zealand this morning, but former United States President Barack Obama’s first visit won’t be forgotten. After meeting Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday, Obama headed to an invite-only event on Auckland’s waterfront where he wowed the audience with a powerful speech.
The evening began with a mihi led by Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, before renowned Kiwi actor Sam Neill hosted a 75-minute Q&A session with Obama. Neill took to Twitter to express his nerves ahead of the event.
So tonight, for an hour on stage , it's just me and President Obama. Am i nervous? Nah. This cold sweat thing is just me all the time . I'm fine. Thanks.@FlyAirNZ
— Sam Neill (@TwoPaddocks) March 21, 2018
During the discussion, Obama acknowledged former NZ Prime Minister Sir John Key for his time in leadership and praised New Zealand for its amount of female leaders and its leading position in terms of gender equality. Declaring that young people are his greatest inspiration, Obama said it was vital to provide opportunities for future generations. “If we can create pathways for them to be a part of the public debate on the big issues such as global inequality and climate change we will be fine”, TVNZ reports.
Obama added that surrounding yourself with the right people was vital when making important choices. He specifically referred to his decision to authorise the 2011 raid in Pakistan that led to the death of Osama bin Laden.
When asked by Neill how he has transitioned to life after Presidency, Obama said that being in leadership had affirmed how important the little things are, like spending time with his children and holding his wife’s hand.
National Party leader Simon Bridges said Obama seemed like a very “down-to-earth guy”, TVNZ reports. “Barack Obama, as you’d expect, was incredibly inspiring, he was very gracious and what came through very clearly was his values and also his enjoyment while he’s been here, seeing Kiwis, talking a bit about rugby”, he said.
Popular chef Peter Gordon was flown over from London to cook for event, and provided two meal options for the attendees: slow-cooked beef short-rib or Akaroa salmon. Approximately 900 people attended the dinner, including Sir John Key, Sir Peter Jackson and Willie Apiata.