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President Obama Hosts a Question-and-Answer Session with Young Southeast Asian Leaders

See President Obama's remarks at a question-and-answer session with young Southeast Asian leaders in the East Room of the White House.

Today, as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, President Obama hosted a meeting with 75 emerging leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the White House. The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative encourages civic and government leaders from Southeast Asia to enhance their leadership skills and work with their American counterparts to help promote economic empowerment, good governance, and environmental and natural resources management in their home countries.

President Obama answers questions from YSALI

President Obama hosts a discussion with fellows from the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Fellows Program on themes of civic engagement, environment and natural resources management and entrepreneurship, in the TK of the White House, June 1, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The 75 leaders who came to the White House today were made up of a group of 55 YSEALI Professional Fellows and 20 YSEALI Academic Fellows representing all 10 ASEAN countries.

While here at the White House, these young leaders met with policymakers and participated in a question-and-answer discussion with the President on themes of civic engagement, natural resources management, and entrepreneurship.

Here are three takeaways from their conversation: 

The President told the young leaders that one of the most important things that he stood for was making sure that he was treating everyone fairly — no matter their sex, race, religion, or sexual orientation. The President emphasized that as long as you had a clear view of what you stood for, you could always look yourself in the mirror and know who you were and why you were doing what you were doing.


"You have to stand for something. That's my most important advice." —President Obama to young Southeast Asian leaders: #YSEALI

Posted by The White House on Monday, 1 June 2015


During the question-and-answer session, President Obama also said the reason that he thought the Trans-Pacific Partnership was so important was because it really fit into his greater ideas of equality and fairness for all. At its core, the trade deal, President Obama said, “set up a set of principles to ensure fair trade between countries.”


Finally, the President noted how sustainability is key to a future that isn't decimated by climate change and environmental destruction. That's why he's fighting to ensure that our economic development is tied to sustainable development

For more information on the President’s trade plan, visit

For more information about the President’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, click here.