KL-YES/AFS Alumni at Obama’s Lecture- A Personal Experience

We all gathered by Safari park at 6.45 a.m. dressed classy and official like we were going to be standing at the podium to give a speech! Close, we were going to see the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, on Jul 26, 2015 at the Safaricom Indoor Arena in Kasarani.  Excitement was an understatement for the 9 alumni of KL-YES/AFS that even missed breakfast for the occasion. President Obama finally visited Kenya, his hometown, to attend the 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit as well as meet people like us alumni and other leaders from different organizations.

9 alumni attended the event along with the Director of OFIE Kenya, Mr. Athman Lali and the Chairman, Mr. Koitamet Olekina. The alumni include Christine Odera, Mohamed Abubakar, Naima Nurrein, Khadija Hussein, Leah Tesfamariam, Loius Thiong’o, Muhammad Jalalkhan, Denis Silas and Chandni Khan. Lucky for us, we also bumped into alumna, Amina Mstomo that added to the energy of our group.

You would think living next to the Safaricom Stadium would give some of us an idea on how to get to Gate 12 through which everyone arrived at the Indoor Arena. In our classy outfits and polished shoes, we lost an hour looking for the gate. And when we finally found it, our pricey colognes had worn off and our black shoes were covered with a layer of dust. Worse was we had to stand in the long queue despite being ready by 6.45a.m. So much for missing breakfast! Nonetheless, the hungry alumni weren’t discouraged. We stood, chatted and took selfies to kill time- definitely worth the wait.
When we walked into the arena, goose bumps were inevitable. The place was filled with people of all ages and the exhilaration was unfathomable! The arena had flags of Kenya and USA as décor and a sign of loyalty, and the Secret Service scattered all over the arena, giving the event just the touch it needed. All was left was patience.

Finally! The man of the hour arrived, clad in a neat suit as expected and with a dashing smile! The crowd was in uproar with excitement. The alumni tried their best to get his attention before he got to the podium and before we knew it, he pointed at us and waved! What a moment! A moment, which Mohamed Abubakar can naturally imitate in an uncanny but funny way.

President Obama’s speech was very moving especially when he shared the stories of his first time in Kenya where he slept by the couch of his sister. He shared his memories on when he first tried Ugali and the moments he met his extended Kenyan family. It was a personal story that connected to every Kenyan in the Arena and despite all the other political words that came after, what stood out the most was his ability to unite with us through our origins. It was delightful.

President Obama spoke about many things including feminism, FGM, terrorism, corruption, ethnic clashing and youth development among others. What called to the alumni the most was his address on the youth. “And when it comes to the people of Kenya - particularly the youth - I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve. A young, ambitious Kenyan today should not have to do what my grandfather did, and serve a foreign master. You don’t need to do what my father did, and leave your home in order to get a good education and access to opportunity. Because of Kenya’s progress, because of your potential, you can build your future right here, right now,” he said.

"I feel honored and privileged to have had the opportunity to see and listen to, face to face, one of the most influential people of the world, president of a super power, President Obama. It was exciting and very inspiring," shared alumna Naima Nurrein.  The sense of inspiration received from the event  was felt by all the alumni that attended. "I was really happy and inspired. My dream finally came true and I saw the man himself," expressed Mohamed Abubakar.

Speaking to Christine Odera, the Kenya KL-YES alumni leader shared, "It was such a privilege to have been invited to attend the speech by President Obama. It felt like an acknowledgement to the efforts we as the KL-YES alumni put forward in the projects we do to better our society. This has also been an encouragement for us to do more."

The KL-YES/AFS alumni were more motivated by this opportunity of seeing President Obama than any other alumni opportunity that has come their way. It was a moment of a lifetime that also made clear the fact that KL-YES/AFS do connect lives. We live to grow with our communities and guide them to a better future as young leaders that have brighter ideas.