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Obama: How We Got Here

January 29, 2019


On March 4, the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, will speak at BellMTS Place in Winnipeg.
Yes, Winnipeg.
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce is set to host A Conversation With President Barack Obama, and while the city known as ‘the Gateway to the West’ may still occasionally battle a lingering stereotype or two, it has come a long way in the past couple of decades, with events like this helping secure its place among its peers as a top-tier city in Canada.

“Winnipeg is Canada’s best kept secret,” says Loren Remillard, President and CEO of The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “More and more people are traveling here, more and more people are experiencing the reality that is Winnipeg, and we’re changing people’s minds. It helps that we have great organizations like Economic Development Winnipeg and Travel Manitoba that have done an amazing job in getting the message out about why this is a great place to visit and have been instrumental in changing the views about Winnipeg.

“At the end of the day, we know who we are. We know what we have. And we celebrate that. For me, the greatest thing I’ve seen change over the last number of years, is we’ve stopped apologizing for Winnipeg. We’ve started wearing our pride in Winnipeg, here and abroad.”

That pride was on full display this past May as the Winnipeg Jets pushed into the third round of the NHL Playoffs, drawing more than 20,000 fans out into the streets for some of the city’s now celebrated ‘Street Parties.’ The Jets returned to the city in 2011, and while the economic impact of the return is undeniable, there have been other ‘building block’ events over the years that helped paved the way for A Conversation With President Barack Obama in 2019.

“Staging the 1999 Pan American Games,” Remillard recalls being one such event. “It was a tough time for our community. There was an economic downturn. But, we were able to remind ourselves by staging that event that we’re still a great city. Every community goes through tough times. The measure of a community is not how many times it gets knocked down, but how many times it picks itself up. And Winnipeg is a city of innovators, entrepreneurs and leaders who ensure we always rise.

“You take a look at a lot of the major events that we’ve welcomed, from the FIFA Women’s World Cup to Canada Summer Games; they’re moments in time that the community gets behind, and it becomes a rallying cry to that expression, that belief that we can do this.”

For The Chamber, this will hardly be the first time its had a hand in attracting one of those prominent events, previously welcoming such prolific speakers as former First Lady and Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and Sir Richard Branson.

“Each one made the next one possible. It demonstrated our ability to deliver world class events with world class speakers.”

President Obama’s stop in Winnipeg will be one of a few he will make within Canada.

“I cannot imagine a more significant speaker coming to Winnipeg, be it past or future,” Remillard says. “President Obama was a pivotal figure in world affairs for eight years, and continues to be a leading voice on the global stage. He is an inspiration to millions, and that inspiration extends beyond the borders of the United States.

“For Winnipeg Chamber members, this speaks to our commitment to continue to bring them the highest quality events, programming that is not only entertaining and insightful, but moments in time that you will remember. This is definitely one of them. Each time we achieve something like this, it reminds us, and bolsters our belief in ourselves and that we deserve to have speakers like this in Winnipeg. We should not be shocked when speakers like this come to Winnipeg.

“That is definitely one of the takeaways that I really look forward to from this event; the energy that’s going to come from it that will be a reminder that we can go after anything, and be successful.”