Obama Foundation Annual Report 2018

Barack Obama Posing with Arms Crossed


It’s a simple truth, but a powerful one. And it’s a sentiment that has guided me my entire life.

It’s what led me to Chicago as a young man, eager to make a difference but unsure how to do it, searching for mentors and a community that I might be able to help out. It’s what sustained my campaigns and my time in the White House—the support of millions of people who shared the belief that lasting change can only come from the bottom up. And it’s the idea that Michelle and I have devoted our lives to through our Foundation, an organization committed to inspiring, empowering, and connecting people with the voice and the vision for a better tomorrow.

Because the world can use more leaders. I saw that clearly during my time in the White House, and I believe that even more today. When global progress is halted, it’s not because we lack the solutions to our problems. People don’t go hungry because we don’t know how to grow food. Children don’t die because we lack cures to common diseases. Schools don’t fail because we don’t know how to provide a quality education.

We face these and other challenges, as unique as they are, for a similar reason: because we need the kind of inclusive, ethical leadership that can channel a people’s will into progress that benefits everyone. We need fresh eyes and diverse perspectives that can help us question and change our current ways of thinking.

That’s why the Obama Foundation is supporting emerging leaders throughout the world—because we believe that the community leaders of today will become the global leaders of tomorrow.

And I don’t just mean politicians and presidents.

Leadership is necessary at all levels of a society. We need more grassroots leaders who are willing to go into their communities to ensure everyone’s voice is heard. We need more entrepreneurs and private sector executives who understand that enriching their communities and workforce can be just as valuable as enriching their shareholders. We need more advocates who are willing to challenge systems of oppression and ensure that potential is met with opportunity, regardless of race or gender, culture or creed, orientation or belief.

We need more jurists and thinkers and scientists and engineers and artists and everyday people, everywhere, to step up, realize our fates are intertwined, and help lead us into a brighter future.

Those are the leaders of tomorrow that we seek to prepare today.

Throughout these pages, you’ll see how the Obama Foundation is working to identify and support those leaders, whether it’s amplifying the impact of established changemakers like our Fellows and Scholars, offering substantive training programs to emerging voices in communities at home or regions abroad, or breaking down barriers for boys and young men of color in the U.S. and girls around the world so that they can thrive and lead as well.

To me, the stories that really stand out are the stories of connection—young men and young women who’ve met each other through the Foundation’s work and have been able to improve people’s lives in dramatic new ways as a result.

These are connections that would not otherwise exist— Scholars from Asia, Leaders from Africa, Fellows from Europe, college students from Chicago—all forming bonds that will support and enrich them for years to come. Some met during the course of our programming. Some met during our 2018 Summit.

Some will soon meet through a digital network we’re building. And many, many more will meet at the Obama Presidential Center, a campus that will attract people from around the world, while honoring Chicago’s history as a crucible for change.

Today they all know that they’re not alone as they pursue progress.

And in the days and years ahead, they will change the world—together.

Barack Obama Signature

Barack Obama

Annual Report 2018 Letter from David Simas, CEO