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Leaders Asia-Pacific 2019

The Leaders Asia-Pacific program is a non-residential leadership development and community engagement program that seeks to inspire, empower, and connect emerging leaders in the region. Together, Leaders accelerate positive and lasting change in their communities, in the Asia-Pacific region, and across the world.

About the Program

The Leaders Asia-Pacific program focuses on building a tightly-knit cohort, while simultaneously supporting individuals, uniting leaders from across Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, and Oceania to engage in values-based leadership discussions, skillbuilding for social change, and hands-on workshops. To date, the program has built a network of 200 leaders, hailing from over 34 nations and territories, working across various sectors and issue areas.,

Leveraging the full power of the Obama network, Leaders participate in virtual skill-building workshops, network building opportunities, and a variety of moderated conversations with issue-area experts, while focusing on individual growth as a leader rooted in values. Upon completion of the program, Obama Leaders become part of the Obama Foundation’s global alumni community, a new generation of civically active, positive role models who are prepared to create tangible solutions to the challenges of our time.

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. (Opens in a new tab)


Two Asia-Pacific Leaders join forces to serve students and families in the Philippines

When Jaton had to shift his after-school programming to be fully virtual, he reached out to Alfonso for help. Together, the leaders created AHA! Eskwelang Pamilya—a free and accessible online program featuring daily lessons and COVID-19 resources and info

Stories of Hope: Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leader Swietenia Puspa Lestari Promotes Sustainability

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

Stories of Hope: Obama Leader Gigih Septianto Turns Office Into Warehouse

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

Stories of Hope: Obama Foundation Asia-Pacific Leader Rashvin Pal Singh Creates Open-Source Mask Files

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 aroun

Inside the 2019 Obama Foundation Leaders: Asia-Pacific Convening

Two hundred emerging leaders from across the Asia-Pacific came together for five days of intensive skill-building workshops, leadership development training, and a community service project to kick off the year-long program.

How the Asia-Pacific Shaped Us: President Obama and Maya Soetoro-Ng

President Obama takes the stage with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, for a conversation about values-based leadership and growing up in Indonesia and Hawaiʻi.

Michelle Obama and Julia Roberts in Conversation with Deborah Henry

Michelle Obama and Julia Roberts reflect on their trip to Vietnam with the Girls Opportunity Alliance—and share stories from their own journeys in leadership.

Entrepreneurship: Working with Purpose

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.

We Are the Future: Progress and Possibility in the Asia Pacific

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.

You Inspire Me: Michelle Obama Visits Girls in Vietnam

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 Gir

Meet the Leaders: Nicholas Marchesi

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 i

Meet the Leaders: Julian Aguon and Blue Ocean Law

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

Meet the Leaders: Dissa Ahdanisa and Fingertalk

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 wit

Meet the Leaders

Social Innovator Kyungsun Chung Speaks with Leaders

Photo of Kyungsun Chung

Kyungsun Chung, a pioneer in the social enterprise space in Korea and Founder of the impact investment firm HG Initiative, joined Leaders for our monthly speaker series. Kyungsun shared his story of being part of one of Asia’s largest family-run conglomerates, Hyundai, and how he decided to step away from his family business to start his own values-driven social innovation projects. Leaders Natalie Au and Prodita Sabarini moderated the chat.

Expressions of Oceania: A Selection of Art from Hawaiʻi, Sāmoa, and Aotearoa

Photo of Paula Fuga playing ukelele.

On October 14th, the Leaders Asia-Pacific cohort and members of the broader Pasifika community came together for a virtual celebration of Pacific arts and culture. The event showcased artists and community leaders like singer Paula Fuga, Maori slam poet Te Kahu Rolleston, and the powerful contemporary dance group Black Grace.

Ahead of the International Day of Peace, Leaders hear from Thant Myint-U

Professional photo of Thant Myint-U.

Just days before the International Day of Peace,  notable scholar, author, and former public servant Thant Myint-U joined our Obama Leaders for a timely discussion on the prospects for peace and development in Burma. Timothy Low from Singapore and Rozella Mahjhrin from Malaysia moderated the discussion.

Koko Kondo Speaks to Leaders on the 75th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings

headshot of Koko Kondo

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Ms. Koko Kondo, an international peace activist and survivor of the atomic bomb, joined our Leaders to share her life’s story, her journey to forgiveness, and her hopes for the future.

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

Photo of Simon Moss

Simon Moss, the Co-Founder of  Global Citizen (Opens in a new tab), 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.

Designing the Asia-Pacific Leaders Program

January 2, 2019

“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

Gabrielle Dolan Leads Workshop Series on Presenting With Impact

Photo of Gabrielle Dolan

Throughout October, best-selling author and expert storyteller Gabrielle Dolan—affectionately known as Ral— led a series of workshops for Leaders on how to maximize the impact of presentations in the workplace. Adjusting to today’s reality, Ral shared best practices for conveying powerful messages over Zoom and how to adapt storytelling to the virtual setting.

Malaysian Obama Leaders Join Forces for National Kindness Week

Photo of Gwen Yi Wong and her team from Tribeless.

In February, Obama Leader Ian Yee commissioned the help of fellow Leader Gwen Yi Wong and her organization, Tribeless, to design an interactive and engaging program for students and teachers to learn basic empathy skills during National Kindness Week, a nation-wide anti-bullying campaign in Malaysia. With National Kindness Week moving entirely online due to COVID-19, Gwen and her team kicked into full gear to adapt the program for a virtual audience, ensuring it was suitable for children with disabilities and conducting a virtual training for dozens of facilitators. Gwen and Ian are thrilled to be collaborating in bringing this empathy-building activity to over 750 schools across Malaysia.

Hawaiian Community Gathering: The Value of Navigational Leadership

Headshot of Nainoa Thompson

The Leaders Asia-Pacific team hosted a virtual gathering alongside our community in Hawaiʻi, entitled “The Value of Navigational Leadership: Wayfinding Through Rough Waters.” Together, an intergenerational panel of seasoned navigators and native Hawaiians explored how lessons learned from the Polynesian sea voyaging tradition can inform other aspects of life and society. The conversation, led by Maya Soetoro, left audience members feeling grounded, inspired, and interconnected. Speakers included Nainoa Thompson, Pomai Bertelmann, Haunani Kane, and Keānuenue DeSoto.

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

Filmmaker Maya Newell stands alongside the subject of the documentary In My Blood It Runs, Dujuan Hoosan

Filmmaker Maya Newell and Aboriginal leader William Tilmouth joined Leaders for a timely conversation about their award-winning documentary,  In My Blood It Runs  (Opens in a new tab)(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.

A group of people sit on the floor as a man holding a microphone points at a screen.

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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!


Designing the Asia-Pacific Leaders Program

With the help of Foundation supporters and other key stakeholders from the Hawaiʻi community, 21 leaders from across the Asia-Pacific will gather in Hawaiʻi to help design future Obama Foundation programming in the region.

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Leaders: Asia-Pacific 2019 FAQ

Leaders: Asia-Pacific 2019 FAQ

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