Former President Barack Obama said Wednesday that many Americans didn’t believe him when he spoke about bringing large-scale change to the country until after he left office.
“About 40 percent of the country didn’t believe me — until I was gone, and then they believed me,” Barack Obama said during a Q&A at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers event in New York.
The event, which coincided with the United Nations General Assembly in New York, focused on reviewing the progress of global health initiatives over the past 25 years.
Obama said when faced with addressing a global issue, he received backlash for claiming the United States could not address the problem alone.
“I take great pride in what the U.S. can do. But if we are talking about climate change or global migration spurred on by drought or famine or ethnic conflicts, we are not going to be able to solve those things by ourselves,” he told the crowd.
“It doesn’t make you less patriotic to believe that. You just have to have some sense and read.”
The former president stressed that education is key in order to motivate Congress to tackle global health issues, arguing that public opinion can spur lawmakers into action.
Obama argued that most elected officials are “followers, not leaders,” and will respond when they see “what their constituencies want.”
“The more we can influence public opinion, the more you’ll see politicians respond,” Obama said.
Other prominent speakers at the event included Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, education activist Malala Yousafzai, and Bill and Melinda Gates, among others.