Modern Economics: Home, Love and President Barack Obama
By Tara MacIntosh
The Economic Club of Canada hosted a conversation about mindset, change, and community influence with the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, on January 23rd. The conversation welcomed a fresh perspective on traditional thoughts and actions. Shae Invidiata was present to experience the incredible energy and moments of gratitude brought forth by the impressive roster of speakers and entertainers.
For an economic conference, impressively put together in just six weeks, the reoccurring theme expressed by the presenters preceding President Obama, was love. Love of planet, love of each other, and love of self.
Passionate community leaders took the stage, humbled by those who helped them to rise up and take action. Kiana “rookz” Eastmond, an award-winning entrepreneur and founder of Sandbox Studios, silenced the crowd with her personal tale of triumph and emotional reference to home, “Home is a powerful word – it is a place you can cry. When people invite you into their home to be vulnerable, that is where you grow.” She tearfully continued, “Home is where people embrace you. I define home as the place where people embrace me.” Dwayne Morgan, Randell Adjei, and Thunderclaw Robinson gave a moving Spoken Word Performance encouraging the crowd to dream big. They shared, “The gift is community, always tethered. No one was made to be a spectator in life.” In a moment of unison, Canadian Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Jessie Reyez silenced the room of 6000 with a rendition of her popular song Figures met with thunderous applause.
We are at the point in our history where the economy can only thrive when we work together as a global community and take action for global solutions. Organizers, Rhiannon Rosalind, CEO of Economic Club of Canada, and Dr. Jeffery Overall, Professor of Entrepreneurship and Strategy at Ontario Tech University, expressed their passion for inclusion and acceptance. They made it clear the modern economic dialogue needs to be centred around creativity and togetherness. Rhiannon believes, “Conversations have the power to change the world.” As moderator of this important conversation, the duo expressed their goals for the event, “We aim to shift energy by raising the collective vibration of the planet. Our goal is for you all to feel a shift in your hearts today – and be open to receiving it.”
The moment arrived for President Barack Obama to take his seat. Business leaders, distinguished guests, and invited youth rose to their feet as he ascended the stage. President Obama waved to the crowd while flashing his distinguished smile. He simply said, “Hello everybody.”
The first question was one of the skills, precisely, which would be the most important to acquire as we enter a new decade. The dialogue centred around the fact that robotics and advancements in engineering are unstoppable. It is our responsibility to re-imagine repetitive tasks in all disciplines. We must think about what we have to offer and see how we can re-shape it or make it more creative. Introducing new skills into the education system is a real consideration, Obama remarks, “I’m not letting you off the hook, kids. You still need to learn math! You do, however, need to take a creative approach when learning.”
The conversation turned to the mental health crisis. Rhiannon remarked, “500,000 Canadians call in sick to their jobs every week due to mental illness.” Obama cautioned not to overgeneralize or use media-generated stats. The global economy has created a significant amount of anxiety as the ground we stand on is continually in flux, and uncertainty is amplified in the mists of rapid change. Obama remarks, “As a black President, I challenged a sense of identity. Women moving in different directions, and the LGBTQ community-making demands have shaken long-standing traditions. We are in a time of constant change offering the people little to anchor onto.” Confusing the status quo distorts identity and creates anxiety. Obama continues, “Men don’t know what it means to be a man anymore, and other traditional roles are no longer static. These issues are unsettling to people, which causes disruption, confusion, and anxiety.” The business has to be agile and flexible to the changing state of the world. When we add social media into the mix, we are attempting to replace the rooted community with online followers and friends. This adds to the uncertainty.
Rhiannon asked what we can change in terms of the process of resolving current economic problems. In short, assemble a team of experts to share their opinions and their expertise. The most important ingredient for making complex decisions is for each team member to be an expert in their field, not that they agree with the leader or each other. With a team of diverse experts, you can be confident that you have exhausted all of your hypotheses and are moving forward with the best possible solution, regardless of the outcome. As President, Obama would follow this formula. He says, “I would assemble a team of experts to understand the probabilities and hypothesis and make a call based on reason. Knowing you have exhausted all possible tactics and outcomes allows you to move forward with confidence.”
Climate change is a never-ending conversation. The complexity of the issue is vast, making it difficult to know where to begin. We must work together; however, globally, we are not all on the same page or living at the same standard. Obama remarks, “There are actions we can take in the United States and Canada to slow the damage, like driving efficient cars; however, the complication comes when you take into account individual needs and economic status. It is not possible or feasible for everyone, most actually, to go out and buy a Prius.” The younger generations have elevated the climate change conversation, and collectively, we must keep the dialogue active. Business, government, and individuals around the world all play a vital role in slowing the effects of climate change.
A select number of students were in attendance, chosen to derive inspiration from an accessible President who challenges tradition and embodies change. Miranda Kamal, of MJKO Toronto, was present along with thirty of her students. Miranda wanted to show her students that when you allow yourself to dream big, anything is possible. MJKO is a south Parkdale not-for-profit charity that has been in operation for over ten years. Miranda is the heart and soul of the operation, dedicating her life to the sport of boxing as, to her, it is transformative by igniting strength, resilience, and belonging. She has taught these qualities to over 12,000 students that have passed through the MJKO doors. MJKO teaches sport, a positive mindset, and employable skills to promote confidence and a sense of community. It was evident that MJKO is a place where these kids can be themselves, dream big, and cry – in essence, home.