Yesterday, three-time NBA champion Stephen Curry sat down with former President Barack Obama for a candid discussion regarding key themes from President Obama’s recently released memoir, A Promised Land. Reaching their combined audience of 66 million Instagram followers, the 46-minute conversation explored integral moments from President Obama’s personal journey and presidency that have informed his views on life, leadership and issues in society, including the importance of mentorship, the influence of strong women and the ongoing pursuit of racial and social justice.
See highlights below, or rewatch the event HERE Credit: SC30 Inc.
SC: As a father, you have a sense of leadership and you need to direct and make those tough decisions and obviously you and Michelle are dialing through the ups and downs together. In terms of the leadership perspective, obviously you’re also accountable for a staff and an administration that is looking to you for guidance and leadership. I can’t compare me and my locker room to The White House but terms of the position I’m in being the oldest guy in the locker room…
BO: You’re an old man!
SC: I didn’t say all that! I just said I’m the oldest. I’m a young old. So in terms of leading into that leadership and mentorship side of it….are there any examples of where, you know, that materialized during your first term and some tough decisions and ways you leaned into that role?
BO: One mistake I think a lot of people make is that you’re just either born a leader or you’re not. 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 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.
BO: (in second part of his answer): The second thing, and this, I know you can relate to, because it’s a direct analogy to basketball or any team sport…is figuring out, how do you help the people around you succeed?…If you can figure out how to empower the other folks on your team so they’re doing great, that’s good for you. And by the way, they’ll feel good about your leadership because they’re seeing that you’re invested in their success. And the mistake I think some folks make is to think being a leader is “How do I dominate and stay on top of other folks?” If you have that kind of approach, your organization or whatever it is, is not going to be as good as it should be and by the way, you’re not going to have the same tight bonds so that when, inevitably, something goes wrong, you got other people to pick each other up.
On Bin Laden:
BO: The book ends with the raid to get Bin Laden and I kind of lay out step by step how that happened. And when you look at all the moving parts and the hundreds of people who under complete secrecy had to operate on the highest levels and trust each other, everybody from the intelligence folks who figured out meticulously the detective work to figure out where he was to the Navy Seals who built a whole compound just like the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and practiced and trained, to the translator who, in case the neighbors came around as the helicopters landed could tell folks “This is just a military affair, go back in your houses,” to the canine who was on the helicopters and to the diplomats who had to manage the fallout. You look and you think, it’s a perfect example of what you described…and that’s part of why I had the book because I want people to see when government works. When any important thing happens, it is because we’re doing it as a group collectively, with a shared sense of mission. And when that falls apart, I don’t care how much talent, how much money…it will not work. Things will break down. And that’s, I think, one of the biggest themes of the book, because that applies to America as a whole. We’re in a moment where we’re really divided and it’s really important for us to remind ourselves…any of the seminal moments of American history, there may have been a leader who helped make that happen but it’s thousands, hundreds of thousands of people who are involved in that success.
Mrs. Obama DNC Speech Story:
SC: 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?
BO: A lot of times with Michelle, is in really stressful moments, the thing that she’s really good at is actually making me laugh. 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.
Strong Women In Life/Partner’s Strength:
BO: 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. 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 am 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.
BO: The other thing it teaches you, which becomes even more important when you have a daughter…as a man, you’ve got to have confidence. In seeing the strength of your wife and partner. Rather than wanting them to make themselves small to pump you up. One of the great blessings of being married to Michelle is the example she’s set. Now I won’t have to worry that Malia and Sasha are ever going to kind of dim their light because somehow that’s supposed to be the role they play.
BO: 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.”…I want folks to read this and say “I can do that.” 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.
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