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Obama spoke at a lunchtime event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in the city’s downtown. In his speech, he encouraged the audience, including the young people from Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener, and Kingston, to get involved in politics.
“These are the outstanding young leaders I’ve been hearing about,” Obama said.
The former president shook hands with every young person in the room.
The young people interviewed have all taken part in Pathways to Education, a program that provides academic, financial, social and individual support to youth from low income communities. The program helps them graduate from high school and move into post-secondary education, training or meaningful employment.
“It was absolutely surreal,” Maddy Ross said. “It was overwhelming.”
For Leandre Nawej, Obama was inspiring when he spoke about civic engagement and when he made time for the group.
“He wanted us to be active in our communities,” Nawej said.
Nawej said meeting Obama in person made a big impression on her.
Obama was in Toronto to speak at an event organized by the think-tank Canada2020, and he packed the room with an estimated 3,000 people. In his lunchtime speech, he reassured the crowd about Canada’s relations with the U.S,
“I think in many ways the relationship between our two countries has not radically changed,” he said.
“There is probably a different conversation taking place between governments, but the connections that we have between people, our commercial bonds, our cultural bonds, are so deep that they transcend any particular party and they transcend any particular moment.
A huge thanks to @Canada2020 for providing Pathways students with opportunity to meet @BarackObama today! #graduationnation #FutureLeaders pic.twitter.com/his6ffjpXE