Former President Barack Obama’s roundtable discussion with students at the University of Chicago Monday took great strides to avoid mentioning the current president’s name or anything about him. Instead, the group focused on the benefits and challenges for those hoping to make a difference in their communities.
At the close of the discussion, Harish Patel, the deputy director of New America, talked about the negative impact one’s past can have on future careers.
“As you grow up, you are going to learn and change and evolve in all kinds of ways, and that is healthy and normal. The problem now is with the internet, that past is always there,” Obama said. “One way to think about it, it is true that if you have pictures of everything I had done when I was in high school, I probably would not have been president of the United States. So, I would advise all of you to be a little more circumspect — circumspect about your selfies and what you take pictures of, just a suggestion.”
He continued saying that the real problem is that someone’s entire life is now searchable.
“It is one of the biggest challenges of being in public life, generally,” Obama said. “I wrote a book about my early journey, Dreams of My Father, a long time ago and because I had been pretty honest about the struggles I went through as a young man. When I ran for office and there was some big reveal about, ‘Oh, the guy smoked pot!’ I was like, ‘Yes, it was in my book.'”
He went on to explain he didn’t sugarcoat his past or suggest that it was something he recommended for everyone but as a teen, at that time it was what kids did.
“Not everybody. Some were wiser than me. I was not that wise,” Obama said. “I think the best you can do is to own your life and your mistakes and the changes that you go through. It does not mean it is always pleasant to ask people all up in your business.”
Obama revealed that of the half dozen biographies about him thus far, they’ve struggled to find any real interesting information about his youth. He explained that it was due to his life in high school not being all that notable or flooded with accomplishment.
“So, folks go around and they are looking for stuff and then they try to dramatize things that were kind of routine,” Obama continued. “There is a part of you that kind of says, ‘Why would you care about this? It is not that interesting.’ But that is the nature of the business in some ways. That is for people running for office and not for most of you wanting to get involved and participate. That is something unique about politics and I don’t think there is anything you can do about it other than the fact that your human and you make mistakes. I think most people understand that. Certainly, most people of this generation who understand a lot of stuff ends up on the internet. They are probably more forgiving about those kinds of issues.”
He went on to say that it contributed to his optimism about the Millennial Generation.
Watch the clip below: