U.S. President addresses over 500 ASEAN youth leaders during the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall at Taylor’s University

President Obama inspires Taylor’s University students to be agents of good

During the Malaysian leg of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), President of the United States, Barack Obama was at Taylor’s University to share knowledge and welcome insights on global challenges in a Town Hall session with more than 500 students – the biggest congregation yet – from all over the ASEAN region.

YSEALI is the President’s signature programme launched in 2013 to strengthen leadership development, networking and people-to-people ties between Southeast Asia and United States. The yearly gathering allows focus on critical topics identified by youth in the region like civic engagement, environment and natural resources management, and entrepreneurship and economic development. Since its inception, YSEALI has grown exponentially to 50, 000 members, between 18 to 35 years of age, across the ten ASEAN countries.

According to Emeritus Professor Dato’ Dr. Hassan Said, “We are privileged and proud to have been selected as the venue for President Barack Obama’s talk for this year’s YSEALI event. At Taylor’s University, we firmly believe in creating a learning environment that will help young people develop holistically – by connecting the education of the mind, the heart and the hands developing tomorrow’s leaders. We are honoured to have hosted one of the prominent leaders of the world at our campus.”

Moreover, thirty students from Taylor’s University were invited to attend the session with President Obama.

Duncan Tsen, a student in the Foundation in Computing from the School of Computing & IT, admired President Obama’s presence in the room. “He was engaging and friendly – it was amazing to witness his connection with the audience first-hand. I felt that he was really speaking to us when touching on environmental challenges and reminding us about the importance of positive human influences.”

He has been working on a multiple award winning mobile application, FeedOn! – a social community app designed to bring industries in food and beverage as well as organisations to fight food scarcity amongst the less fortunate. “Since working on FeedOn!, I was happy to hear him bring up the environmental challenges in Asia – it has definitely put perspective into my project and how I can proceed with making the app global.”

“I was delighted be part of the small group of students at the town hall today – it was a truly memorable experience.” said Najiah binti Roslan, who is currently enrolled in the American Degree Transfer Program and a Maybank scholar. “President Obama’s approach to the questions was refreshing – open and honest,” she said.

For Helena Kumar, pursuing her degree with the School of Education under the Taylor’s World Class Teacher’s Programme, “What stood out most to me was his message on respecting others and that everyone is worth something. Everyone is worth helping and his interaction with us was natural and it made me feel like we were on the same level with him.”

President Obama believes that leadership begins by caring for communities – that young people are powerful agents for good. YSEALI carries his legacy by fostering community leadership among youths in ASEAN member countries. This is his ninth trip to Asia and the Pacific to reflect the growing importance of the region to U.S. national interests and commitment to advancing broader regional strategy, known as the Rebalance.

Hearing from the students in the crowd- POTUS visit

Cheong Echuim, 18
American Degree Transfer Program

I was very proud to be selected to be a part of this experience. The most important thing that I came away with was what we, as future leaders, should do instead of whiling away time. We need to behave with integrity, be honest and good in everything we do so that through our actions, we can help our country move forward.

We have been blessed with plenty of resources within Malaysia and also are quite a tech-savvy nation. For that, and more, we should help one another and make this land a better one for everyone.

The President of the United States of America is a very humble person. It was exciting to be in the same room as him and watch him in action. His brain generates ideas faster than anyone I know.

Watching him makes me realise what kind of a person I want to be- he makes jokes, talks politely and speaks to anyone regardless of their origin. His aim, is to ensure that everyone lives harmoniously.

From this experience, I will work hard to improve myself and through that, impact the world I am in. It doesn’t make sense to live in a world where people are not happy so it’s good to make a difference. I would be involved in activities that will empower people with knowledge and not just provide them funds to make a difference.

Hoh Zhong Xian, 22
Taylor’s Business School

I was just speechless when I found out. It is a great opportunity to be able to meet the President of the United States of America and I am left inspired from being able to hear him speak. I have a lot of admiration for him as although a great leader, husband and father, he manages his time well. What inspires me most about him is this and his close bond with his family.

The session has made me appreciate everything about my country and what is available for us. As a business student, we are used to thinking of the profit we can make through our activities. But, through listening to him, I realized that there is a need for us to give back to the community. As a global leader, he has not forgotten to give back to the community.

One day, when I am successful and self-sufficient, I will contribute to the community. In the meantime, though, I will continue to volunteer my time.

Najiah bt Roslan, 18
American Degree Transfer Program

I am surprised and delighted to be selected. I would like to take this chance to thank Taylor’s University for this phenomenal experience. For me, the thing that stood out most for me was how the President of the United States of America responded to the answers. He always took the time to give an answer to every question and he knows what he is talking about.

I was extremely impressed with his wide area of knowledge from weather forecast to LGBT- he never failed to answer to every question posed to me.

From this, I am motivated to work hard and be among the top students as this golden opportunity only strikes once.

Esther Tan, 21
The Design School

I was at a loss for words when I found out I was selected to attend this- it was a mixture of overwhelming honour and gratefulness that out of more than 12,000 students at Taylor’s University, I was one of the 30 individuals chosen to attend the town hall session. Taylor’s has opened so many opportunities for me but this one really tops it all.

The manner in which the President of the United States of America carried himself was something that really stood out for me. The moment he stepped into the room and spoke, his presence immediately commanded our attention. Through the way he answered the questions that was raised, I found myself seeing so much more to him than just a leader of the free world, he connected to us as an equal.

One of the most important things I took from this session is realizing the how much power the youth holds in bringing change to the world, and in order to harness our potential we cannot become comfortable/complacent with the way things are in the world.

Kenny Lew Tze Hao, 21
Taylor’s School of Engineering

When Ms. Angela emailed me, asking to meet me up, I didn't have the slightest idea of what the meeting was about. It was only later that I realized the opportunity that I am soon to have. I feel so blessed to be one of the chosen ones to attend this once in a lifetime Town Hall with President Barack Obama. I am grateful for Taylor's who always provide countless opportunities to us, which will allow us to be nurtured to grow and develop.

As soon as President Barack Obama stepped foot into the hall, the aura he gave out is so powerful. It was so inspiring to be in the same hall as him. Knowing what he has achieved as President of United States, he is still so humble and approachable. One quote from him that will always stay with me is "Treat everyone with respect and dignity, no matter the difference". This is definitely a life principle to hold onto by all.

Being the leader of the world most powerful nation, he still manages to adopt a great sense of humor and he never fails to do his best to please everyone as he is a leader for the people. He is always about Servant Leadership and this is the best start in creating Leaders without Titles.

One thing I would really take away from this experience to implement in my life is to treat everyone without judgement. There is no need to categorize others, there is no need to put yourself higher than others, but there is always a reason to treat everyone with respect and love as everyone is here for a reason, no matter who they are.

If everyone were to practice this, the world will definitely be a better place to live, with equality amongst all, treating one another as fellow human beings, with no judgmental mindset, with no "categorization" of others and with this, we, as humans will be able to achieve more in life.

Rupam Konar, 28
Taylor’s School of Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts

Personally I felt great when I heard this from the Dean of the School and I would have never expected to be a part of an event this nature, to see the President of the United States of America in the same hall. Being an international student, I believe that Taylor’s have really gracious to me and I would like to thank them for this opportunity.

I was quite curious and eager to listen to his ideas and his beliefs for the youth generations' potential. This inspirational talk from Mr. President really moved me and opened up a wider perspective to look at different aspect of community development and better understand my role as an individual towards achieving it. Being a part of younger generation, it should be in our nature to embrace the change for good and empower others towards becoming a successful human being.

From the moment I heard I was selected till the end of the event, every moment was memorable for me. It’s once in a life time experience for me and this whole experience will always be memorable for me for rest of my life.