Read President Obama’s reflection on 2021, and see how we’re turning hope into action to support young leaders, build the Obama Presidential Center, and take on the biggest challenges of our time.
It’s hard to believe that it’s only been five years since Michelle and I launched the Obama Foundation—especially because so much has changed since then.
Today, we’re still dealing with the far-reaching impact of a pandemic. People in every corner of the world are experiencing the consequences of a warming planet. In America, your gender, race, class, and country of origin too often determine your ability to thrive. And both at home and around the world, democracy itself is under siege—with the future of our collective experiment in self-government hanging in the balance.
It’s a lot to wrap your head around, and enough to make anyone feel cynical. But we started this Foundation five years ago as an antidote to cynicism—to prove that we have it in us to address the trends we’re seeing in the world, to make our institutions responsive to today’s challenges, and to give more people a better life.
Today, that work is more important than ever.
Our goal has always been to identify young people who aren’t waiting for someone else to tackle big problems. They are the source of my hope. And through the Foundation, we want to give them whatever training, support, resources, and platforms they need to fully realize their potential and bring their dreams to scale.
In 2021, we worked with young leaders who are demanding climate action in Germany, supporting artists and musicians in South Korea, funding women-led businesses in Cameroon, addressing poverty and violence in El Salvador, and strengthening communities on the South Side of Chicago—to name just a few.
We also worked to help keep girls and young women learning and thriving in school, even during the pandemic. We saw real progress in communities across the country doing their part to reimagine policing. And of course, we broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the life of the Foundation.
So while this was a difficult year for many, it was also a hopeful one. And we’re doing even more in 2022.
That’s important because it’s clear that the challenges we’re facing right now—from raging wildfires and rising sea levels, to attempts to make it harder to vote, to Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine—are too big to ignore. They also don’t lend themselves to easy answers.
But it’s also clear that progress can—and must—start with us. We have to advocate and organize; to advance our values; and fight for truth over lies—not just because we’re afraid of what will happen if we don’t, but because we’re hopeful about what can happen if we do.
That’s what the Obama Foundation is all about, and I look forward to continuing this important work with all of you in 2022 and beyond.