The former US President talked over an hour to a gathering of about 3,000 business leaders and others attending the Oslo Business Forum outside Oslo on Wednesday. Although the theme was technology, leadership and sustainability, he also addressed the political developments in the West.
Don’t take democracy for granted
We can not assume that democracy will last forever. We must fight for it, “said Barack Obama, who is concerned about policies based on nationalism and racism.
He believes that leaders in the United States and Europe were overwhelmed by the positive economic developments in the late 1990s and early 2000s. But globalization has made many feel that they have fallen behind, Obama warns.
“They feel worried about the changes and look for an old type of policy, based on tribes, races or nationalism,” he said, warning:
“We can not assume that democracy will last forever. We must fight for it, cultivate it.”
Internet can be used to spread both hope and hatred
Talking about the internet, Obama said that internet is seen as a positive opportunity to bring the world together, but, it also has a backside.
“What we have learned in recent years is that the same power that can be used to spread messages of hope can also be used to spread hatred.”
Business leaders must look beyond the four corners of the results sheet. They can not only care about their owners, but must relate to the changes in society.
“It is not the contractor’s task to solve these problems. But they must not forget that they are dependent on the community functioning well. If not, you will get protectionism and authoritarian tendencies in politics.
Importance of young talents and diversity in the company
According to Obama, to counteract the harmful aspects of globalization, it is important to ensure that investments are spread, which also hit a blow to the welfare state and believes Norway has found a good solution.
Obama earmarked from his White House experience to advise business leaders. Among other things, he encouraged them to accommodate young talents and showed that counselor Brian Dees had a decisive role during the negotiations on the climate agreement in Paris when he was in the mid 30’s.
“If I had emphasized seniority, he had not been close to participating in the negotiations,” he said, admitting smiling that he now finds that his daughters at 17 and 20 are sometimes smarter than him.
He also spoke warmly for diversity in the boardroom and in the company.
“If everyone attending the meeting is just like you, you do not have any meeting,” he pointed out.
Soft corner for Norway
Obama was warmly welcomed when he was on stage at the conference center at Hellerudsletta outside Oslo. The participants had paid several thousand dollars to see him, someone had paid up to 32,000 kroner for the opportunity to handshake and take a selfie with him.
Right in the beginning of his talk, he acknowledged the warm reception by saying some words of appraisal for the country he was visiting. He declared that he has a soft corner for Norway and Norwegians.
“I love Norway and Norwegians. When I was in the White House, and there was some problem, I told the staff: If only Norwegians were in charge, everything would be alright. Perhaps we should put Norwegians to lead everything,” Obama said.