Obama Tells Young South Asian Leaders “Democracy Is Hard”

Obama Tells Young South Asian Leaders “Democracy Is Hard”

On Monday, President Barack Obama hosted a question-and-answer session with 75 emerging leaders from the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.

He told the young leaders that “democracy is hard” and has led to “terribly unfair” things being said about him.

“As I always point out, democracy is hard. I think many of the things said about me are terribly unfair.

But the reason American democracy has survived so long is because people, even if they are wrong, have the right to say what they think.

George Washington, our first president, complained terribly about some of the foolishness that was said about him.”

Obama Tells Young South Asian Leaders "Democracy Is Hard"

President Obama hosts a discussion with fellows from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Fellows Program in the White House on June 1, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Still, he said “it’s important for America to realize we are not perfect either.”

“So we have to make sure we are constantly seeing how we improve our democracy. The amounts of money for example that are involved in our elections these days is disturbing because it makes it seem like a few people have a greater influence in the democracy than the many.”

Obama’s speech also included some advice for young, aspiring politicians. During the question-and-answer session, he told a woman from the Philippines that “you have to be willing to lose.”

“You have to be willing to lose an election, because you think there’s something more important than you just winning an election. You should try to win. I’m not saying you should try to lose. But you have to stand for something.”

You can read the full transcript of this speech here.

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