Barack and Michelle Obama head to Malaysia to speak at ‘Leaders: Asia-Pacific’ gathering

Former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama will be heading to Kuala Lumpur for the Leaders: Asia-Pacific gathering in December. ― Picture via Instagram/obamafoundation
Former US president Barack Obama and his wife Michelle Obama will be heading to Kuala Lumpur for the Leaders: Asia-Pacific gathering in December. ― Picture via Instagram/obamafoundation

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 15 ― Former United States president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama will be heading to Malaysia in December to speak at the Obama Foundation’s inaugural Leaders: Asia-Pacific gathering.

The gathering, which will take place from December 10 to 14 in Kuala Lumpur, will gather 200 emerging leaders from countries across the Asia Pacific as part of a year-long programme focused on values-based, ethical leadership.

In line with the foundation’s mission to inspire, empower and connect people to change their world, the programme represents the Obama Foundation’s commitment to the region and belief that these emerging leaders, through the extraordinary world they do in their own communities, have the potential to positively effect change across the globe.

The 200 leaders represent more than 30 nations and territories across the region, work in a variety of fields across the public and private sectors, and have demonstrated extraordinary potential for impact, a clear commitment to integrity, and a capacity to advance the common good within their spheres of influence.

The foundation’s chief international officer Bernadette Meehan said in a press release that the Asia-Pacific region held a deep well of talented and passionate emerging leaders, and it was a region of great importance to Obama given his strong roots in Indonesia and Hawaii.

“This programme will build upon the community organising legacy of the Obamas, with a focus on shared values and ethical leadership, and we are excited to embark on a yearlong programme to empower these leaders to tackle the unique challenges they face in their communities.”

The leaders programme builds on the foundation’s work over the past two years with young leaders from Chicago to Johannesburg.

It is also informed by the guidance and insight of 21 leaders from 16 countries in the Asia Pacific who helped design the programme at a workshop with Obama in Hawaii in January.

The leaders who joined the Hawaii design workshop will also participate in the full Leaders programme.

The gathering in Kuala Lumpur will include plenary sessions, skill-building workshops, leadership development training, and opportunities for connection among leaders across sectors and geographies ― all from an Asia-Pacific perspective.

Through such sessions, the leaders will grapple with ethical dilemmas and work on creative, values-driven approaches to problem solving.

They will also explore how their personal narratives can be used to support and enhance their leadership.

When participants return to their communities, virtual programming will continue for a year, through a speaker series, technical trainings, educational workshops, action plan guidance, and support and amplification from the foundation.

Michelle previously announced that she would be traveling to Vietnam in December as part of the foundation’s Girls Opportunity Alliance efforts to drive awareness and action on the importance of adolescent girls’ education.


To underscore the importance of girls’ education, the Leaders: Asia-Pacific cohort will include several emerging leaders who focus on girls’ education and empowerment from across the region.

The first Leaders programme, focused on rising leaders in Africa, was held in Johannesburg in 2018 and 2019.


The foundation has launched several other civic engagement programmes that engage young leaders globally, including the Obama Foundation Scholars and Obama Foundation Fellows.

Additionally, the foundation has hosted roundtables, town halls, and workshops with Obama in Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, India, Singapore, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Colombia, and Canada to help inform the foundation’s global programming.

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