Listening to Barack Obama on June 6 2017 at the Chambre de commerce de Montréal métropolitain

Listening to Barack Obama on June 6 2017 at the Chambre de commerce de Montréal métropolitain

I sometimes tweet when interesting things happen. Today, I was given the opportunity to hear American President Barack Obama speak for the first time in Montréal. It was my first time hearing him speak in person. Enjoy the tweets archived here in chronological order. They are of course not an exhaustive account of the entire Obama speech and of all his answers, but rather give you an idea of what stood out to me the most.

And, after all the tweets, I included some notes of other thoughts that hit me on the train ride home.

This tweet above ended up being funny in retrospect. Every one of the introductory statements by members of the Chambre of commerce mentioned the slogan from his "HOPE" 2008 campaigns, and I perhaps did not realise right then how much of Obama's discourse still relies heavily on hope and the idea that change is possible, though in my own opinion it sounds like he has stopped asking people to believe in his ability to change the world, but for people to believe instead in their own capacity to change.

...In the above tweet, I don't know what I was thinking with those [square brackets]... Please nevermind those...

The following tweets occurred during the Q&A session with Sophie Brochu who kicked off the questions with one regarding (forgive the paraphrase) market-based solutions to resolving poverty and the gap between the 1% and the 99%.

What I meant there in the above tweet is that you could sort of tell from the look on his face that he was aware that his answer was a non-answer, or an avoidance to answer. The question put him in a tight spot, I think.

I also want to note re: the above tweet that the statement was really about fossil fuel workers feelings of being left behind, abandoned, impoverished, etc... Not that they "would/will not be part of new 'green' energy industries"—I feel like I typed that tweet rather poorly, my apologies. As Obama himself pointed out in his answer to this question, there's good reason to implement transitions and retraining and improve the social security and safety nets to catch people who find themselves out of a job when certain resource extraction livelihoods go bust.

Please forgive my inept tweeting in that above tweet—I meant that the above tweet is a dig towards Trump, who notoriously has a bad relationship with Merkel.

A few parting notes, in no particular order:

Whenever he mentioned the word order, especially with regards to immigration, the superior values of the West in the post-WW2 world, and NATO, I kept thinking that order was being used as a euphemism for imperialism. This is especially obvious in a Canadian context where our colonizing motto is/was peace, order, and good government and is a holdover from our days current and past as a Commonwealth jurisdiction and nation of the British Empire. He was really quickly able to transition from talking about values to discourse about NATO (where the United States is the military power establishing "order") and it shows how transparent the discourse around "order" really is.

I circled this in a tweet but he kept using the words "market forces", "market-based system", "the power of markets", or "economic dynamism", when often I think what he really meant was capitalism. I don't know if he was consciously avoiding the use of the word. At one point he used the term "winner-takes-all capitalism" to emphasize that there is good capitalism and bad capitalism, and that these two things have enough meaningful differences between them for there to be a moral difference. I'm... not convinced.

I left the speech wondering why the palpable relief I was overhearing all around me (the folks sitting next to me were quite vocal all throughout the speech about how happy they were that Obama was so intelligent and wise) did not reach me. There were moments that glimmered for me in Obama's speech. But most of the time I was waiting for substance I did not hear. I felt like I was listening to a repeat of so much information I'd heard before. I kept hoping that Obama would truly go off-script, claim the carte blanche that apparently the CCMM offered him. Not because I want to hear his true thoughts on Trump (what a useless exercise that would be) but because Obama was part of the architecture of so much of the present-day world stage and so much of it seems poised on the edge of a knife—and unlike him, I have a bad feeling that the people who will fall off that edge will be those sacrificed to maintain the old normal for Western élite societies.

Thank you to all those who liked and shared my tweets and who read this post. My comment section is open as usual on this post and I'm also available on Twitter if you have questions or comments.

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