Two students from Yellowknife had a brush with history on Wednesday when they attended a conference where former United States president Barack Obama spoke.
Clairdean Jerome and Paul Reid from St. Patrick High School stood just a few hundred feet away while Obama spoke about society, the economy and climate change at The Future of Work & The New Economy conference in Toronto.
“He was very down to earth for a man of his accomplishments,” Reid told Yellowknifer over the phone from Toronto. The part that I remember is when he talked about solving problems with a diverse team of people, not just racially diverse but people with different specialties so they can attack situations from all angles.”
“It made me realize more than before that our generation has to do something with upcoming problems or there might not be a world to live in.”
Jerome said that being in the same room as the former president was “amazing.”
“He's a walking inspiration. He's casual and he's not aggressive. (He talked about) economics, climate change, youth, about our generation. It was a great opportunity to be here and hear him talk.”
The St. Patrick pair were among hundreds of other students invited to the event for free.
Jerome and Reid were chaperoned by St. Patrick principal Todd Stewart. Students from different parts of the NWT were selected by their school districts to attend after John MacDonald, assistant deputy minister of Education, Culture and Employment spurred the effort to take Indigenous students to the conference.
“Ours were selected because we felt they could really benefit from it,” Stewart said.
“I just hope they have a new appreciation of what's taking place. And to hear former president Obama inspire them to move forward and help our economy and society.”
Thousands of people attended the conference that was organized by the Economic Club of Canada and the Global Institute for Conscious Economics and was held at the Toronto Convention Centre.