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Tree People: Obama

Updated: Nov 30, 2021

Andy: Now for our next series article, which will start from this week about lifelong learners, or what Chinese people call 🌲 tree people, that is well-rounded, outgoing types that challenge themselves throughout their lifetime. So, to start the series, I'm going to ask a very simple question. Who do you think is the most representative, lifelong learner in today's world that is still alive today? And why?

Esther: Well, I think there are some very powerful lifelong learners and well-known lifelong learners. And I think the one that comes to mind right now, who is still alive, is Obama. He's a very smart man. And he is always exploring new things and trying to understand things better. He's a true intellectual. And it's a real rarity to have a serious intellectual into the White House, and as a political person, but he really is somebody that I admire. And I would say that many of the academics in the world, not just in the US, but in other countries, also fall into this category (树人 [shù rén] / of tree people – always expanding their branches outward). Because you know, you cannot be stagnant in today's world. You have to move with the world. You have to learn how to learn because after you graduate from high school, or from college, or both, you need to keep up with what is happening in the field that you're interested in. And if you do not keep up, if you just stop with the year that you graduated, in just a couple of years, you'll already be behind. No matter whether it's medicine, law, or humanities, or science, I mean, no one wants to go to a doctor who is not up to date, who does not have the latest information about the best treatments. So that is all part of lifelong learning, and the web empowers that. And prior to the web, people had to spend a lot of time in libraries or a lot of time talking to others at conferences. And today, it's so simple just to go on the web and find all this meaning. It's not only now just in medical journals, science journals. It can be found everywhere. And one of the things I've tried to do in my life is to make sure that those journals are open to everyone and that they are not held behind a wall, where you have to pay $300 or $400 bucks to read the articles… everyone should be able to do that. And that's one of the major roles that Creative Commons plays out.

Andy: I read about your initiative (Creative Commons). I know that you were part of the founding group on that, too.

Esther: Yeah.



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