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At Obama summit, Prince Harry is optimistic for the future

Michelle Obama is joined by HRH Prince Harry to talk to students at Hyde Park Academy in Chicago, IL on Tuesday October 31, 2017. | The Obama Foundation

Prince Harry doesn’t remember who came up with the idea for The Royal Foundation, but he did remember the driving motivation behind its creation — and the leverage being a royal could have in creating a better world.

“Once you realize the effect that your name and your position can have you have to spend every living day trying to bring people together and trying to make the most of that position,” the prince said.

In a discussion with Mellody Hobson, president of money management firm Ariel Investments, Prince Harry, who visited Hyde Park Academy High School earlier Tuesday with Michelle Obama, talked about how his late mother, Princess Diana, inspires him.

He also talked about the charitable foundation he created with his brother and his sister-in-law to address the problems they see in the world to cap off the Obama Summit’s first night.

In a wide-ranging conversation, the prince and Hobson talked about bringing people together and how the youth shall inherit the earth. Prince Harry’s own call to service came in part because of his military experience, which he called an “incredibly powerful tool” for connecting people.

The hour-long conversation also included the stories of David Peterson Jr., a Chicago native, and Chantelle Stefanovic, from Nottingham, who are “in the trenches,” as Hobson said, addressing the issues in their communities and around the world.

Stefanovic is a project coordinator for Full Effect, a program that is part of The Royal Foundation. She understands the problems of her community first-hand. Forced into a life of crime at 16, she has since righted her path and now works with young leaders in the community to help them avoid some of the mistakes of her past.

“I became an adult very quickly, I was forced to be an adult,” Stefanovic said. “I took on a lot of responsibility and I knew I wanted better for myself and for my family.”

Peterson Jr. also understands hardship. His road to being president and executive director of the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, wasn’t an easy one or a straight shot. Moving from Hyde Park to Pullman at 16 “changed my life,” Peterson Jr. said. He dropped out of college for a bit and found a sense of community that he now tries to provide others through Museum 44, an After School Matters program that combines hip-hop and history.

“We could have provocative conversations all the time, but change only happens when we create solutions,” Peterson Jr. said.

Their individual hardships are partly why they’ve each become involved in community activism and charities and what brought them together at the Obama Summit’s penultimate event. Going forward, Prince Harry expressed optimism about the next generation.

“We have to listen to the younger generation because they’re the curer of some of the world’s biggest problems and many communities as well,” Prince Harry said. “The work force is already there, all we have to do is create a platform for that because they can do things we could never do. If I was in their position I wouldn’t want someone in a suit or tie or a prince telling me how to do things.”