During a Q&A with Bill and Melinda Gates on Wednesday for their charity foundation, former President Barack Obama revealed the three big pieces of leadership advice he’s given his teenage daughters over the years.
1. “Being responsible is an enormous privilege”
“When they were small, their responsibilities were small, like, ‘Say when you want to go potty’,” Obama joked of Malia, now 19, and Sasha, 16. “As you get older, your responsibilities grow.”
Obama says he and his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, have tried to impress upon their daughters the importance of being kind, considerate, empathetic and hardworking. “These are the tools by which you can shape the world around you in a way that feels good,” he said.
“Part of what we try to communicate is that being responsible is an enormous privilege,” he added.
The former president also said that owning responsibility is “an ethic that [my daughters have] embraced.”
2. There are many ways to make a difference
Obama said he understands that Sasha and Malia “will choose to participate in different ways because they’ve got different temperaments, different strengths.”
“You don’t have to go out and lead the protest march,” he said, noting that being a leader could also include activities like mentoring children or working at a local health clinic.
“If you are a brilliant engineer, you don’t have to make a speech,” Obama said. “You can create an app that allows an amplification or the scaling up of something that is really powerful if you’re someone who likes to care for people.”
“There are a lot of different ways to make a contribution and I try to emphasize that to them as well,” Obama said.
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Change takes time
Obama says he and his wife have told their daughters that making an impact can take some time and “you have to be persistent” and patient.
“We get disappointed and we get frustrated,” he said. “I always tell people that my early work as a community organizer in Chicago taught me an incredible amount, but I didn’t set the world on fire.”