Obama on Advice He'd Give to 2008 Obama: I Should've "Warned" Americans It "Would Take Some Time" For Economy To Recover

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President Obama fielded questions from Jamaicans at a town hall event with Young Leaders of the Americas at the University of the West Indies in Kingston on Thursday.

One of Obama's first questions was from a man who had one of the president's books in hand.

"This gentleman right here," Obama said as he selected the man. "He looks very serious; he’s got glasses. Looking sharp. Plus, he’s got a copy of my book. So he’s clearly a wise man."

The man asked Obama if he could go back in time and give himself one piece of advice before he was inaugurated, what would it be.

"I’m going to stay a little bit off the politics for a bit. And I’ve witnessed your journey a lot, and the question is kind of two-part. If you go back and give yourself one piece of advice before the start of you 2008 term, what would it be?" Brian Lumley, a chef, asked the president.

"And the second part is if you can sign this book when you’re finished. Thank you very much," he asked.

The president, reminding people he took office while "we were going through the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s," said, "what I would have probably advised was that I might have needed to warn the American people and paint a picture for them that was more accurate about the fact that it would take some time to dig ourselves out of a very big hole."

Obama said he wished he was did a better job at "describing [the economy] in ways that people understood."

"I think I would have advised myself to do a better job spending more time not just getting the policy right, but also describing it in ways that people understood, that gave them confidence in their own future," Obama said. "I think that would probably be the most important advice that I would have given myself."

"FDR, when he came into office, the Great Depression had already been going on for two, three years, and so people understood how serious it was," Obama also said. " With us, we came in just as people were really starting to feel the impacts. And trying to paint a picture that we'll make it but it's going to take some time, and here are the steps that we need to take."

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn. This gentleman right here. He looks very serious; he’s got glasses. Looking sharp. Plus, he’s got a copy of my book. So he’s clearly a wise man.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. My name is Chef Brian Lumley -- I’m a young Jamaican chef here.
And I own a restaurant -- 689 by Brian Lumley. Just saying.

My question to you -- I’m going to stay a little bit off the politics for a bit. And I’ve witnessed your journey a lot, and the question is kind of two-part. If you go back and give yourself one piece of advice before the start of you 2008 term, what would it be? And the second part is if you can sign this book when you’re finished. Thank you very much.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’ll sign the book. So the question was, for those couldn’t hear: If I were to go back and give myself advice before I started in 2008, what would the advice be?

I suppose I could have started dying my hair earlier -- (laughter) -- so then people wouldn’t say, man, he’s getting old. You’re going like this -- at least I got hair, man. (Laughter.) I’m teasing you. I’m messing with you.

I think that -- keep in mind that when I came into office we were going through the worst global financial crisis since the 1930s, and so we had to make a series of decisions very quickly, many of which were unpopular. Overall, I think we got it right. I think we did the right thing. And because, I think, we took these steps, not only were we able to avoid the kind of Great Depression that we saw in the 1930s, not only was America able to bounce back and start growing more rapidly than most of our peers, drive down unemployment faster, create more jobs faster, but that also had an impact on the global economy and it had an impact on the Caribbean economy, that we were able to bounce back quicker than we might have if we hadn't taken those steps.

But it was, I think, costly politically. And what I would have probably advised was that I might have needed to warn the American people and paint a picture for them that was more accurate about the fact that it would take some time to dig ourselves out of a very big hole. Because FDR, when he came into office, the Great Depression had already been going on for two, three years, and so people understood how serious it was. With us, we came in just as people were really starting to feel the impacts. And trying to paint a picture that we'll make it but it's going to take some time, and here are the steps that we need to take -- I think I would have advised myself to do a better job spending more time not just getting the policy right, but also describing it in ways that people understood, that gave them confidence in their own future. I think that would probably be the most important advice that I would have given myself.

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