Obama-gets-rock-star-treatment-as-he-warns-against-climate-change-in-Vietman. HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam, President Obama urged Vietnam’s young leaders to “do something about” climate change, as he concluded his historic three-day trip to the Southeast Asian country Wednesday.
The U.S. leader was greeted like a rock star as he spoke at his final event of the visit, a town-hall-style meeting, which saw hundreds packed into the venue.
Many at Wednesday’s gathering prefaced their questions by praising him for his leadership qualities and his “inspiring speeches.”
Some young audience members tried to get the president’s attention by waving American flags as he scanned the room for questioners. One young woman wore a traditional Vietnamese conical hat, called a nón lá, with “Thank You Obama” written on it.
Obama was greeted with rapturous applause as he praised Vietnam’s next generation of leaders for being more conscious of the environment than previous ones
“Economic development and the well-being and the health of your people and everyone around the world is going to depend on how we deal with some of these environmental issues,” said Obama.
He noted that Vietnam will be one of the countries most affected by warming temperatures and rising seas.
“That could have a huge impact on Vietnam’s ability to feed its people, on fishermen, on farmers, and it could be a really big problem if we don’t do something about it, so it’s going to be up to you to start,” said Obama.
“One of the great things about your generation is that you’re already much more conscious about the environment than my generation was or previous generations were.”
Obama admitted that in his younger days he “fooled around a lot” and wasn’t serious about school.
“I was more into basketball and girls. I wasn’t always that serious,” he said. “You’re already way ahead of me. That’s good.”
The question-and-answer session marked the end of the president’s trip to Vietnam, a visit that included the lifting of a decades-old arms embargo on the country and an agreement to allow the Peace Corps to operate in Vietnam for the first time.
Obama also used the trip to criticize Vietnam’s record on human rights. He pressed the communist country to allow greater freedoms for its citizens, arguing that respect for human rights would improve Vietnam’s economy, stability and regional power.
He returned to the subject Wednesday when a young Vietnamese woman asked about the importance of governments promoting the arts and culture.
“Sometimes art is dangerous, and that’s why governments sometimes get nervous about art. But one of the things that I truly believe is that if you try to suppress the arts then I think you’re suppressing the deepest dreams and aspirations of the people,” he said after a young female Vietnamese rapper named Suboi performed.
The president offered to accompany her and briefly started beatboxing, much to the delight of the audience.
“Imagine if at the time that rap was starting off that the government had said ‘no because some of the things you say are offensive or some of the lyrics are rude or you’re cursing too much,'” Obama said.
“That connection that we’ve seen now in hip-hop culture around the world wouldn’t exist. So you’ve got to let people express themselves. That’s part of what a modern 21st-century culture is all about.”
One university student asked Obama where he thought he would be in five years.
“I suspect that I’m going to be doing the kind of work I’ve been doing all my life,” he said. “I’ll be doing organizing work and involved in public policy issues. I just won’t be doing it in a formal way through elected office. I’ll be like a community organizer — except a little more famous than I used to be.”
After the meeting, Obama left for Japan, where he met Japanese Prime MinisterShinzo Abe and will attend the Group of Seven summit.
He will also become the first U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, 71 years after America dropped an atomic bomb on the city, which ended World War II.
By Martin Smith