Should Barack Obama be paid $400k for speaking gig?

Former US President Barack Obama is reportedly going to receive a whopping paycheque for an upcoming speech.

He was paid a substantial US$400,000 fee for one recent speech, and he is apparently set to pocket the same amount for his next public speaking appointment in a few months.

And – he is copping a lot of flak for it.


Personally? I can’t see the problem with Obama cashing in this way.

He was paid around US$400k per year as President and he’s paid his dues. If he’s now in a position to receive stupid amounts of money for an hour or two of his time, who are we to begrudge him?

That said, I do understand the bigger issue here. It’s not so much the amount he’s being paid that has people up in arms, but rather, it’s who he’s presenting the speech for: an event sponsored by Wall Street bank Cantor Fitzgerald.

Obama has prominently and publicly criticised Wall Street bankers in the past – in an interview with 60 Minutes in 2009 he said, “I did not run for office to be helping out a bunch of fat-cat bankers on Wall Street” – and many people are now labelling him hypocritical for accepting a fat payment from them.

Technically, he’s being paid to appear at a health care conference, but in a way he’s aligning himself with the bank, which certainly runs at odds with his stance when he was President.

The New York Times has weighed in with an editorial stating, “It is disheartening that a man whose historic candidacy was premised on a moral examination of politics, now joins almost every modern president in cashing in.”

But again, I argue: What is he meant to do? Turn down lucrative speaking opportunities? Say no to a $400,000 offer because when he was President and in a position of power, he had a negative view of them?

Many are suggesting that he should have done exactly that, but the reality of the situation is that he hasn’t been asked to work for, endorse, promote or support Wall Street. He’s giving a one-hour speech.

And ask yourself one thing: If you were in his position, what would you do?

I know I’d be riding my $400,000 pay day all the way to the bank…