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About the Program

The Leaders: Asia-Pacific program focuses on building a tightly-knit cohort, while simultaneously supporting individuals and their initiatives. Throughout the year, Leaders participate in virtual skill-building workshops, networking opportunities, and a variety of moderated conversations with issue-area experts and prominent figures. Leveraging the full power of the Obama network, Leaders grow their impact on critical issues in their communities and around the world.

The Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific Program is more than just a leadership program—it’s a community of support, enduring friendship, and lifelong connections.

Get to know the Leaders below! For more information about the in-person convening we hosted last December, you can check out the program guide here.


Program Updates

Check out the latest coverage of Leaders: Asia-Pacific!

Filmmakers Join Leaders for a Conversation about

Filmmakers Join Leaders for a Conversation about "In My Blood It Runs" Documentary

Filmmaker Maya Newell and Aboriginal leader William Tilmouth joined Leaders for a timely conversation about their award-winning documentary, In My Blood It Runs (2019). Moderated by Obama Leader Hayley McQuire (Australia), Co-Founder of the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition and impact advisor for the film, the discussion covered a range of topics, including indigenous livelihoods, systemic oppression, and the power of resilience. The film, which was created in careful collaboration with those depicted onscreen, follows Dujuan Hoosan, a 10-year-old Aboriginal boy from Alice Springs, Australia, as he navigates the challenges of a society that was designed to exclude him.

Simon Moss, Co-Founder of Global Citizen, Connects with Leaders

Simon Moss, Co-Founder of Global Citizen, Connects with Leaders

Simon Moss, the Co-Founder of Global Citizen, joined Leaders for a conversation facilitated by Leaders Angga D. Martha (Indonesia) and Jaclyn McLendon (Australia). Drawing from his decades of experience as a campaigning and community education expert, Simon discussed the powerful potential of uniting like-minded people for a common purpose, recapping Global Citizen’s virtual concert, One World: Together at Home — a campaign that attracted nearly 21 million viewers.

Dr. Maya Soetoro Shares Lessons on Peace and Conflict

Dr. Maya Soetoro Shares Lessons on Peace and Conflict

Dr. Maya Soetoro, Director of the Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Co-Founder of the Institute for Peace & Climate, joined Leaders to talk about her career in global peace education. Sharing lessons from both theory and praxis, Maya inspired the cohort with her comprehensive approach to peace work. Obama Leaders Leanne Kealoha Fox (Hawaiʻi) and Yunmei Li (China) moderated the conversation.

Asia-Pacific Leader Swietenia Puspa Lestari is the Executive Director of Divers Clean Action, a youth-led organization based in Indonesia that focuses on marine debris cleanup. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Divers Clean Action started researching the rise in waste and developing strategies to help combat it.

In Indonesia, Asia-Pacific Leader Gigih Septianto turned his office space into a warehouse to source and deliver medical supplies across the country.

President of the Federated States of Micronesia Speaks to Leaders

President of the Federated States of Micronesia Speaks to Leaders

In February 2020, President David W. Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) joined us as our inaugural speaker for our Virtual Speaker Series. President Panuelo spoke to the cohort about the importance of values-based leadership, the importance of transparency in governance, and the role of island communities in the region. The conversation was moderated by fellow Micronesian and Obama Leader Yolanda Joab-Mori, who works on climate action issues in Chuuk, FSM.

Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leader Rashvin Pal Singh is the CEO of Biji-biji Initiative, a social enterprise in Malaysia that creates sustainable solutions for companies and individuals. He and his team created open-source design files that people around the world can use to make their own face masks.

Designing an Open House: Valen Lim Chong Chin

Designing an Open House: Valen Lim Chong Chin

We sat down with designer Valen Lim Chong Chin at the Leaders: Asia-Pacific gathering to understand his inspiration for his designs and his beliefs about how good design can connect and inspire people. Read The Creative Brief.

Entrepreneurs from vastly different industries share what it means to practice values-based leadership—and what drives them to pursue their path. Hear the purpose behind their work and what it took to grow their organizations from the ground up.

The Asia-Pacific region is alive with possibility, promise, and progress. Leading changemakers will talk about the opportunities and challenges in the region—and how to take on issues together.

Just before traveling to Malaysia for Leaders: Asia-Pacific, Michelle Obama visited Cần Giuộc High School in Long An Province, Vietnam. There she met with local girls’ education organizations, some of our Asia-Pacific Leaders, and beneficiaries of the Girls Opportunity Alliance who are working to help adolescent girls reach their full potential through education.

See More From Mrs. Obama's Trip to Vietnam

See photos from Mrs. Obama’s meeting with young women fighting for education in Vietnam. Explore the gallery +

Growing up in Brisbane, Australia, Nicholas saw that people in his own backyard didn't have access to really simple things like a roof over their head, a warm shower, or a community to be connected with. That's why he and his best friend, Lucas, had the idea of putting a washer and dryer on the back of a van and offering free laundry services to people in his community. They called it Orange Sky.

When Dissa was 10 years old, she met a deaf person for the very first time in her life. She was struck by how learning and communicating in sign language could connect her with the deaf community. That's why she started Fingertalk, a social enterprise with the mission of providing employment opportunities for deaf people in Indonesia.

Obama Foundation Leader Julian Aguan was born and raised in Guam and is grounded in the central Chamorro value of reciprocity. He started Blue Ocean Law with that value in mind, and today he's doing his part to defend vulnerable communities from pressing issues in the Pacific region.

December 2, 2019

Julia Roberts to Join Michelle Obama in Conversation at Leaders: Asia-Pacific Convening

CHICAGO, IL — Today, the Obama Foundation announced that actress Julia Roberts will join Michelle Obama in a plenary conversation at the Obama Foundation’s inaugural… More
Designing the Asia-Pacific Leaders Program

January 2, 2019

Designing the Asia-Pacific Leaders Program

“What’s best in me, and what’s best in my message, is consistent with the tradition of Hawaiʻi.” —President Obama, 2004 As President Obama met with… More

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Designing Leaders: Asia-Pacific

At the beginning of the year, we invited a group of 21 emerging leaders from 16 countries and territories across the Asia Pacific for a hands-on workshop in Hawaiʻi. Together, we explored how to design the future Leaders program in the region. Incorporating their input, passion, and drive, the context-specific and engaging leadership program has come to life!


What is Leaders: Asia-Pacific?The backstory.

Get a closer look at the Hawaiʻi design workshop and the 21 leaders who helped craft the current program.

More questions about the program? We've got answers.

Read our FAQ sheet for more detailed information about Leaders: Asia-Pacific.