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SALT LAKE CITY —Former President Barack Obama said Wednesday that he tried to build a culture centered on problem-solving and not personal gain while in the White House — an effective strategy for any organization that also prevents ``big scandals and indictments.''
Obama's comments drew applause from a crowd of about 9,000 people at a business conference in Salt Lake City.
Obama didn't mention President Donald Trump and wasn't asked about him during a question-and-answer session, but he made several comments that seemed to allude to the state of the country and the Trump administration.
``Things like rule of law, democracy and, you know, competence and facts — those things are not partisan, but they also don't happen automatically,'' Obama said. ``There have to be citizens who insist on it and participate to make sure it happens. Democracy is a garden that has to be tended.''
Obama said he felt confident he was making the best possible decisions during his presidency about difficult problems such as Osama bin Laden and the U.S. banking crisis because he surrounded himself with smart people who didn't always agree with him. He said he strived to get all perspectives about the topic at hand.
Calling himself ``old-fashioned,'' he said he believed in ``things like facts and reason and logic,'' Obama said.
The remark triggered loud applause and laughter before Obama responded: ``Thank you. We have a fact-based crowd here. That's good.''
He lamented the ``polarized time'' we live in in which people get ``fractured'' information.
``People want their own facts that are suited to their opinions rather than shaping their opinions around facts,'' Obama said.
At one point, Obama weighed in on his worries about the internet and social media's influence on children.
``It's making them so absorbed with what is the world thinking about them in a way that we just weren't subject to when we were kids,'' said Obama, who has two daughters.
Obama answered questions from Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics International Inc., a Provo, Utah-based survey-software provider that hosted the conference. The company, which was bought last year by SAP for $8 billion, makes technology that helps companies get feedback from employees and customers.
The conference brought several big-name speakers, including Richard Branson, who went on stage before Obama and delighted the audience with stories about how he started his airline company and came up with the name for his brands, Virgin.
He lit up about his ``ridiculously exciting'' Virgin Galactic venture that is working toward commercial operations that will take passengers on supersonic thrill rides to the lower reaches of space to experience a few minutes of weightlessness and a view of the Earth below. He said he hopes to go up in one of his ships in July.