Leadership

Here's how Barack Obama just surprised hundreds of kids who are learning to code

Former President Barack Obama during 2014's "Hour of Code" event in honor of Computer Science Education Week.
Andrew Harrer-Pool | Getty Images
Former President Barack Obama during 2014's "Hour of Code" event in honor of Computer Science Education Week.

Former president Barack Obama isn't just spending his post-presidency free time talking to Wall Street or hosting leadership summits. On Monday, he hopped on a conference call with hundreds of young people across the country to talk about the importance of coding.

Over 1,000 students, educators and advocates were on the line for a call organized by the Computer Science (CS) for All Consortium.

While the goal of today's "National Briefing" call was to detail updates on CSforAll, Obama dialed in as a guest to "crash the party" and surprise the listeners.

"As I've always said, this country is at its best when we lift each other up and make sure that we're extending opportunity to everybody," Obama said on the call.

"I strongly believe every child has to have the opportunity to learn this critical skill," Obama said. "We are inundated with technology and I don't want our young people to just be consumers, I want them to be producers of this technology and to understand it, to feel like they're controlling it, as opposed to it controlling them."

The call is in line with President Obama's post-presidency goal of cultivating the next generation of leaders, CNBC Make It has learned. Here are some of Obama's quotes that listeners shared on Twitter:

During his January 2016 State of the Union Address, Obama launched the CSforAll initiative as a way to provide funding to states and schools to close the digital gap.

"In the new economy, computer science isn't an optional skill, it's a basic skill," Obama said in a video following his address.

CSforAll is about "giving every student in America an early start at learning the skills they need to get ahead in the new economy," he added.

New York City-based nonprofit CSNYC incubated the CSforAll Consortium, a national organization working to increase computer science literacy among all students from kindergarten up through senior year of high school (K-12).

"Computer science is changing virtually every industry, from manufacturing to health. And I want to make sure that our young people learn it so you can be in the driver's seat," Obama said on Monday's phone call. "To be active citizens in our society, you've got to understand how technology works under the hood."

The CSforAll Consortium was formed in response to Obama's call to action in January 2016 and — with funding from the National Science Foundation — launched in September 2016, CSNYC's director of education and research Leigh Ann DeLyser tells CNBC Make It.

Notably, Obama has been championing tech readiness among students for years.

In 2013, Obama endorsed Code.org's "Hour of Code" initiative during Computer Science Education Week and implored that young people "master the tools and technology that will change the way we do just about everything." This, he said, will help the U.S. "stay on the cutting edge."

The following year, Obama became the first president to write a line of code, albeit through an online exercise using the kids' movie "Frozen."

Since Obama launched the CSforAll initiative, more than $100 million has been invested by industry partners and more than 500 commitments were made by schools and nonprofits to expand computer science access, according to a statement provided to CNBC Make It.

As Obama said nearly four years ago: "No one's born a computer scientist, but with a little hard work — and some math and science — just about anyone can become one."

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