Since leaving office, former President Barack Obama says he’s been spoiling his wife Michelle, spending time with his daughters, writing a book, and developing the Obama foundation. On Thursday, however, he came to Dallas to spread a message of inclusion.
The 44th president joined Dennis Kennedy, founder and chair of the National Diversity Council’s 15th Annual Diversity and Leadership Conference in Dallas, to talk through the importance of diversity—specifically how it is the engine of an organization’s success.
“If we’re going to succeed, we have to figure out how to how to work together,” Obama says. “It has to happen in our communities and in our neighborhoods and in our schools, and it has to happen in our businesses and our military. And that has to happen in our politics. And some people get uncomfortable with it.”
Businesses, he says, thrive on diversity of thought. Or, as he calls it, “Not hogging the limelight, but spreading the love.”
“Whatever the organization is, you have to build a corporate culture, and a set of values, that starts at the top, but can’t end at the top,” Obama says. From his perspective, it can all be distilled down to treating other people with respect, being fair, sharing in success, and working hard.
The best workers, he says, show buoyancy, a willingness to learn, and a willingness to work as a team, be helpful, solve problems, and work hard.
When faced with adversity, to Obama, the best defense is resilience.
“Channeling frustrations and anger to say, ‘I’m gonna prove you wrong. I’m going to out-work, out-hustle, out-imagine, out-innovate to achieve that goal,’ is still the best recipe for individual success,” he says.
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