This pandemic has been complete trash, but one of the greatest things to come out of it is how platforms like Zoom and Instagram Live have provided us all with intimate peeks into the lives of some of our favorite celebrities. It’s also transformed exclusive or local events that we’d otherwise miss—like award ceremonies, speaking engagements, or even DJ sets—into public affairs that we can all enjoy and partake in.
Since the release of his record-setting memoir, A Promised Land, our forever President Barack Obama has been on the move non-stop promoting his latest book. And on Wednesday, he blessed us all with his first-ever Instagram Live appearance to chop it up with three-time NBA champ Steph Curry. Over the course of their 46-minute conversation, they discussed leadership and the tremendous value in mentorship, social justice, the importance of having strong women in your life, and other topics with their combined 66 million Instagram followers.
“One mistake I think a lot of people make is that you’re just either born a leader or you’re not,” Obama said. “When, in fact, leadership is, like anything else, it’s a skill. And there are a bunch of different ways to do it. I‘ve known people who were great leaders but really soft-spoken and weren’t always trying to seek attention. The thing I try to communicate in the book and I learned this, I wasn’t always perfect at it […] number one was realizing that the most important thing a leader does is they set a tone in terms of culture as a team. Whether the team is a basketball team or a business or an administration. What are the values in which you are organizing yourselves? [...] Being clear about what your values are as an organization, that’s part of leadership.”
For all of his accolades and success as a politician, Obama also made it abundantly clear that our forever First Lady, Michelle, has played an integral role in not only providing him with solace and comfort but invaluable guidance and insight.
“Can you give us an example of a hard decision Michelle was instrumental in helping you land in the right spot or somewhere that she influenced the way you presented yourself?” Curry asked.
“In really stressful moments, the thing that [Michelle is] really good at is actually making me laugh,” Obama said. “Like, I write about how right before the Democratic National Convention speech in 2004 […] this was my first big national speech. It was really kind of the coming-out party nationally, so it was a big deal. And it was sort of a surprise, I’d been selected […] so I’d written this speech and I knew it was good but I feel a little bit like, ‘Man, I wonder how this is gonna go?’ So she comes up, I’m about to be announced and she looks at me, she squeezes my hand and she leans over real close and she says, ‘Honey, don’t screw it up.’ And I start cracking up. And that was perfect, that’s what I needed.”
But Obama didn’t stop there. He heaped even more praise on Michelle.
“Nothing is better than having a partner who is complementary to you. That sees things you don’t, that has covered you on some blind spots, that can teach you something,” he said. “Now that means that there’s probably going to be some friction because they’re strong-minded and they’ve got opinions. They’re not always going to mesh. [...] But I’m better because I’ve got someone who has strengths that I don’t have, that sees things I don’t see and I’d like to think that she feels the same way. And that I think has been one of the foundation stones of our relationship.”
In all, their conversation was the breath of fresh air that so many of us need during this time. Obama also made it a point to discuss what he hopes that readers take away from A Promised Land.
“I want people to read this and say, ‘Actually I have a better sense now of how our government works, of how the world works, how power works, how decisions get made and influence the world around me and that my voice, and my ability to impact that, is more significant than I thought.’” Obama said. “I want people to be able to see that government by and for the people, it actually can happen if you get involved. Put yourself out there get in the arena, take your shot, it’s not gonna be perfect, you won’t get everything out of it that you want but you will have more power than you understand if you just let it show and take some risks.”
For those who missed their conversation, you can check it out in full below.