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Two years later, catch up with the leaders President Obama met in Brazil

Obama Foundation Meeting
October 5th, 2017.
Sao Paulo - Brazil
Pictures by Anna Carolina Negri

When President Obama sat down with eleven emerging leaders from across Brazil for a conversation about their work in the fall of 2017, he was eager to learn more about their work and to hear directly from them how the Obama Foundation can best support them in the future.

Nearly two years later, President Obama and our chief international officer, Bernadette Meehan, returned to São Paulo and got the chance to meet up with a few of them. As expected, they are still creating positive change in their communities through government, education, and the arts, but we were thrilled to learn that some of them have moved into new careers with even brighter trajectories!

All of the leaders President Obama has met with play an important role in shaping the Foundation’s international programming, and some of the themes this talented group raised—the importance of mentorship, skillbuilding, and even hope—have been incorporated into our regional program in Africa, and will appear in our newest regional program, Leaders: Asia-Pacific!

President Obama and a group of young men and women smile to camera with their arms around each other.
Young men and women smile to camera with their arms around each other.

October 5, 2017:On Thursday, October 5, President Obama met with young leaders in São Paulo to learn more about how they are making a positive difference in their communities — and how the Obama Foundation can ensure all young leaders have the tools and resources they need as they advance on their journey. 

President Obama’s Meeting with Young Leaders in Brazil

By Bernadette Meehan, International Programs, Obama Foundation

After many months of listening to your thoughts, suggestions, and hopes for what our Foundation will be, we launched our first slate of programs in September with the goal of inspiring and empowering people all over the world to engage in their communities. While we have launched the Obama Foundation Fellows program, our pilot training days have been announced, and our inaugural global Summit is set for the end of this month, it is important to President Obama, and to all of us, that we continue listening and learning from the amazing initiatives of those already working to create change around the world. In this way, our programs will continue to grow and develop as we learn from you.

Our initiatives are designed to spotlight individuals and projects around the world that are already making an impact, and connect people that are tackling challenges in their own communities. This Thursday, October 5th, President Obama will do just that—he will travel to São Paulo to meet with 11 young leaders from all over Brazil to discuss the specific issues their communities face and the solutions they are working on. His conversation with these young leaders will also focus on challenges that are universal, and how solutions can be translated to benefit emerging young leaders around the world.

Over the past few weeks, we have spent time getting to know these young leaders—their dreams for the future of Brazil, songs that remind them of home, people who have inspired them, and their favorite foods. I personally can’t wait to go to Brazil and have a plate of feijoada and fresh maracuja juice.

As always, I have been incredibly impressed by the young people we are getting to know around the world. People like Felipe Neves, who, after learning that his law school janitor’s daughter did not have proper facilities in her public school, decided to mobilize a cohort of his peers to go to schools in his community and volunteer to teach the students basic constitutional law, human rights, and civic rights. By exposing them to the importance of voting and participating in society, he has empowered them to demand improvements in their school.

What stood out to us the most about the participants we selected for this roundtable, is that not only are they working for change in their communities, but they are also inspiring others to create change as well. When asked who inspires her, Deborah Lourenço told us that her mentor reminds her that when she climbs a wall, it is her responsibility to work to dissolve unnecessary barriers that stand in the way of those who follow. That is why Deborah works as a volunteer to support students who have the academic skills to pursue higher education anywhere in the world, but lack the know-how to realize that studying abroad is not only for the wealthy. She was once in this position and through the support of her mentor went on to pursue her studies at Smith College and then Stanford University.

When President Obama visited Brazil in March 2011 he said: “With each passing day, Brazil is a country with more solutions.”

I truly believe this, and I can’t wait to hear more about the unique solutions these inspiring young Brazilian leaders are using in their communities. You can learn more about the roundtable participants here, and we look forward to sharing details later this week about President Obama’s conversation with them.