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Former U.S. president greeted with song and celebration
Sophia Crann brought a sign from Lewisporte with her to Mile One Centre Tuesday night.
It contained a quote from Barack Obama, “When times get tough, we don’t give up, we get up.”
Crann said that is just one of the many quotes from the former U.S. president that have affected her life.
“He’s an inspiration,” Sophia, 15, said excitedly. “When I heard he was coming to St. John’s I couldn’t wait to get here to see him.
“It was my grandmother’s (Mabel Trenholm) birthday and we got her a ticket as a birthday present.”
Obama, the 44th president of the United States, was warmly welcomed to the stage at Mile One Centre in St. John’s Tuesday evening with musical selections, a standing ovation, and applause and cheers that reverberated through the packed arena.
Obama waved and smiled, indicating his thanks.
Obama was given a taste of Newfoundland and Labrador culture with performances by singer-songwriter Tim Baker and former Great Big Sea frontman Allan Doyle, and the Shallaway Youth Choir.
The choir also performed the Canadian and American national anthems.
Obama, in conversation with moderator Zita Cobb, said climate change is one of the biggest issues facing the planet.
“Climate change is one issue that if we don’t rapidly get at it, then the consequences will be very difficult to reverse,” he said. “I don’t think there is much left to debate about the facts.
“There are conversations to have on how we respond.”
Cobb noted Obama should feel at home in Newfoundland, an island culture. Obama was born in Hawaii.
“I do think there is an island spirit here, which I felt backstage," Obama said. “I’m less likely to go swimming here.”
Cobb spoke about Obama’s accomplishments as president and said, to applause, that “most of us here tonight are among the many, many, many people of the world who would have liked you to have a third term.”
She asked, “If that were possible, what would you have paid most attention to in those extra four years?”
Obama replied, the “extraordinary threat that is posed by climate change.”
Obama also touched on globalization.
Companies are not rooted in communities as they once were because of advancements in technology, he said, which can be a profound threat to democracies.
“We do not have a handle on how globalization is rapidly changing the relationship between capital, labour and communities, and we are going to have to rebuild how we think about a responsible capitalism to maintain the democratic structures we have.”
The United States and Newfoundland and Labrador have a special connection — not only through historic partnerships like Second World War co-operation that saw American bases established in the province — but particularly due to what happened Sept. 11, 2001.
After the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration shut down airspace over the United States following a series of terrorist attacks in the country, inbound flights from Europe were diverted to Canada — a total of 38 planes landed in Gander, and dozens of other planes landed in St. John’s and Stephenville.
“We do not have a handle on how globalization is rapidly changing the relationship between capital, labour and communities, and we are going to have to rebuild how we think about a responsible capitalism to maintain the democratic structures we have.” — Barack Obama
People in Gander — a town of about 10,000 — and people from small towns in the area, helped with the sudden influx of more than 6,500 passengers and crew. Schools, churches and community centres were set up to accommodate people and provide food and comfort, while many residents took passengers into their homes. The famous Broadway play “Come From Away” tells that story.
Obama was elected the first African-American president of the United States on Nov. 4, 2008. He won a second term of office in 2012.
Information provided to media stated that following his time at the Oval Office, Obama remains committed to building a growing network of innovative and ethical change-makers who will drive positive change in their communities, the continent and the world.