Former President Barack Obama is choosing to view the bright side of life despite the “extraordinary challenges” the world is currently facing.
Speaking to a roomful of activists, musicians, innovators and royalty gathered in Manhattan for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Conference last week, Obama addressed pressing issues such as climate change and growing economic inequality, but encouraged conference-goers to remain focused on progress, The Guardian reported.
“If you had to choose any moment in history in which to be born, you would choose right now,” he said Wednesday, Sept. 20. “The world has never been healthier, or wealthier, or better educated or, in many ways, more tolerant or less violent.”
Obama’s pep talk came just a day after his successor, President Donald Trump, threatened to “totally destroy” North Korea during a speech among world leaders at the United Nations general assembly. Trump blasted countries he considered enemies of the U.S. and failed to discuss the hot-button issue of climate change, shocking Americans back home.
Despite the president’s tirade, Obama urged the audience to reject cynicism and stay optimistic.
“Not blind optimism, but hard-earned optimism, rooted in very real progress,” he said.
Comedian and host of the Daily Show, Trevor Noah, who also spoke at the event, agreed, adding that staying positive has ironically become easier since Trump took office.
“I don’t know how to feel about him. He’s a paradox for me,” Noah said of the president. “I know that every day he’s going to make me laugh. It’s like there’s a giant asteroid heading to earth, but it’s shaped like a penis. I know I’m going to die, but I’m going to laugh.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, whose philosophy is based on said optimism, is a bit concerned, however, amid Trump’s plans to shave the U.S. aid budget that helps fund most of its international efforts, according to The Guardian. For years, the foundation has worked to reduce the number of child and maternal deaths, as well as reduce deaths related to the AIDS and malaria viruses in nations across the world.
In a recent report, the foundation projected that a 10 percent budget cut in funding for HIV treatment could spell death for an added 5.6 million people. The foundation also announced last week that $20 million of its $80 million boost efforts to combat inequality would go to supporting local women’s groups.
“Often under the radar, women’s movements have been forging and winning campaigns for a better, more equal future for a very long time,” Melinda Gates said. “You won’t hear much about these women’s movements over in the UN. [The work] has been largely unrecognized and largely under-resourced.
“That’s slowly beginning to change.”