Obama was elected by young people. Now, he wants to empower the next generation.
In 2008, when Facebook and Twitter were still new on the scene, young voters used social media to help propel Barack Obama to the White House. He knows firsthand how powerful a force they can be when inspired by a cause they believe in.
During a talk in Japan, Obama revealed that he's channeling his post-presidential legacy into finding ways to help tomorrow's leaders connect and work together.
Obama said if he can successfully create a platform that helps young leaders better communicate, it could have a profound impact on American democracy.
"I would create a hundred or a thousand or a million young Barack Obamas or Michelle Obamas," he said. "Or, the next group of people who could take that baton in that relay race that is human progress."
Former President Barack Obama praises the students who organized and participated in the March for Our Lives
Former President Barack Obama praises the students who organized and participated in the March for Our Lives while speaking at an event in Tokyo, Japan Sunday: "This was all because of the courage, and effort of a handful of fifteen, sixteen year olds." http://bit.ly/2rYkNeLPosted by ABC 7 News - WJLA on Sunday, March 25, 2018
He also jokingly blamed a lot of society's problems on "old men."
His comments followed a letter he and Michelle sent to Parkland student activists, praising them for their courage and reminding them that there will be tough days ahead.
"The single most important thing I can do is to help develop the next generation," he said.
In specifically talking about the March for Our Lives movement, he added, "I think that’s a testimony to what happens when young people are given opportunities, and I think all institutions have to think about how do we tap into that creativity and that energy and that drive."
"It's just so often we say: 'Wait your turn,'" he added. "A lot of our problems are caused by old men. No offense, men, who are old."
Michelle and I are so inspired by all the young people who made today’s marches happen. Keep at it. You’re leading… https://t.co/d0DTg594Cs— Barack Obama (@Barack Obama) 1521911267
To help make that youth-driven progress happen, the Obama Foundation is exploring the idea of launching a new social media platform.
Facebook and other social media platforms have been subjected to intense criticism recently — and it's not just because of "fake news." Obama said another significant problem is when people only engage with like-minded communities, something he hopes to change:
"One of the things we're going to be spending time on, through the Foundation, is finding ways in which we can study this phenomenon of social media and the Internet to see are there ways in which we can bring people from different perspectives to start having a more civil debate and listen to each other more carefully."
Obama didn't specifically outline what kind of platform his foundation might create. Whether it's a rival to Facebook or something that could work in harmony with other distribution platforms, Obama emphasized the the bigger goal would be to foster discussion and connection between people from different communities.
At a time when Facebook is under fire, Obama reminded us how social media can be positive outlets for activism and change.
Yes, at times, these platforms can divide us. But Obama is a living, breathing example of how they can also inspire and unite us.
His historic presidency was in large part the byproduct of young people empowering themselves and others online. If leaders like Obama can help empower the next generation to use those platforms for civil discussion and activism, we might not need another tragedy like Parkland to inspire the next great movement.