Nova Scotia

'Special night': Barack Obama speaks in Halifax

The former U.S. president is visiting Halifax for a speaking engagement Wednesday night at the Scotiabank Centre.

Former U.S. president is visiting Halifax for a speaking engagement at the Scotiabank Centre

Former U.S. president Barack Obama speaks in Halifax on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (Michael Creagen)

Former U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Halifax for a speaking engagement at the Scotiabank Centre drew thousands of people downtown on Wednesday night.

"It's a great moment, we are migrants and we never thought we'd have the opportunity to see such a great person," Aziz Bojang told CBC News ahead of the event.

"We always see videos, hear news about him and he's such a great inspiration," said Gabriella Patel, who is originally from Kenya.

"Even back home, my mom is like you have to just take a picture with him or meet him, just gain something from this as much as you can."

From the left: Gabriella Patel, Yuang Maduk and Aziz Bojang show their tickets to see Barack Obama in Halifax on Wednesday. (Dave Laughlin/CBC)

Halifax is just one stop on Obama's Canada-wide speaking tour.

He came to Halifax to mark the 70th anniversary of the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council, a group that supports co-ops and credit unions. 

'It's a special night for Halifax'

Dianne Kelderman, a member of the council and Credit Union Atlantic, is the one who persuaded Obama to come to Halifax. She said it took 18 months.

Obama was chosen, she said, because he is a dynamic speaker who shares the same values as her organization. She said this stop marks the former president's first visit to Nova Scotia.

"I think it's a special night for Halifax, from an economic perspective, a business perspective with hotels being full and restaurants and all those things," Kelderman said.

"But I also think it's a special time in that he's one of the most admired men in the world who has done a lot of good, so for Halifax to host him, I think, says something about us as a city."

Doors to the event opened at 4:30 p.m. and the event began at 6:30 p.m.

Metal detectors were set up ahead of the event for safety and security.

People waiting at the Scotiabank Centre on Wednesday afternoon said they were looking forward to hearing what the former U.S. president had to say.

Tickets for Obama's Halifax speech sold out in 22 minutes. (Michael Creagen)

"It's incredible to have him here. He uplifts people so much and I'm looking forward to hearing him answer the questions tonight," said retired senator Don Oliver, who met Obama at the White House during his tenure as president.

"There are going to be a lot of African Nova Scotians here and I think he'll be saying some things to them and encouraging them and giving them hope."

Tickets to the sold-out event ranged from $115 to $325.

Tickets for 3,000 future leaders

Kelderman said she wasn't surprised the event sold out so quickly — in 22 minutes.

"That is exactly what we expected would happen," she said. "And we had a waiting list of 3,400 people."

Three-thousand tickets were purchased by businesses and given to students, Kelderman said. 

"We wanted to have a lot of young people, our future leaders in the audience, we wanted diversity in the audience, we wanted kids and youth who would never have this opportunity in the audience tonight," she said.

"I think that they are going to be so inspired and so wowed by the president's message and I hope for one or two of them it will be life-changing."

Obama spoke at the Mile One Centre in St. John's on Tuesday. 

With files from Colleen Jones


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