US President Barack Obama jogged into the 130-year-old quadrangle at St Xavier’s College looking fresh and enthusiastic to address the 300 students, who had gathered from six colleges across the city.
Putting aside his blazer, Obama addressed an awed audience in a crisp white shirt, with sleeves rolled up. As he took over from the First Lady Michelle Obama, who said, “Ask my husband tough questions, all right. It brightens up his day,” the US President jokingly said, “She teases me. If you ask me easy questions also, it is okay.”
But, Obama was in for grilling session. The gathered students had some real tough questions in store for him after their long three-hour wait for the town-hall style session at the college.
Obama began by saying he hates to talk after his wife, as she is a good orator. He went on to graciously thank everyone including St Xavier’s College principal, “I hope I get this right. Father Mas-car-hen-as. Only it is a lot more smoother.”
The US President emphasised on the importance of the next generation. “India’s future is not determined by CEOs and political leaders. India’s future will be determined by young people like you, which is why I always meet young people and not only CEOs and heads of state,” said Obama.
As he spoke, students whipped out their cameras, some even instantly updated their Facebook status to ‘Obama has arrived.’ But, no one spoke a word as long as he was on stage. They all listened in rapt attention as he spoke on everything – the respect he has for Mahatma Gandhi, his experience meeting farmers, etc.
“Leaders like Gandhi and Martin Luther King have taught me to be persistent and stubborn. You can’t roll the boulder all the way up to the hill, but at least you can move it half way,” he said in response to a question on how he implements Gandhian values in his life. “I find myself woefully short of these examples.”
Before the Obamas left the college, they shook hands with as many as people as possible. And, just when they were stepping out, both spontaneously stopped and posed for some photographs.
“It’s like we knew them forever. They are just like us. What a cool couple,” said Kim Fernandes, a student.
While students got a handshake, senior citizen KJ Udeshi was the only one to get a hug from the President and his wife. “I told him (Obama) how my nephew gave up his medical studies to campaign for him and he responded with a hug,” said the former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India.