Obama makes first post-presidential public appearance in Chicago

Posted April 25, 2017

President Barack Obama made his first formal appearance on Monday at the University of Chicago since leaving office in January.

Speaking at the University of Chicago, in his adopted hometown, the former USA president, looking relaxed after an extended vacation time to write his memoirs, opened to the event by quipping: "So, uh, what's been going on while I've been gone?" that made the audience laugh.

Through the Obama Foundation and his future presidential library, both in Chicago, the former president hopes to discover young people with talent and passion for community work and give them the tools they need to do it successfully.

"The single most important thing I can do is help encourage the next generation of people to take up the baton", Obama said when discussing the issues he would focus on during his post-presidency career.

He abstained from any substantive commentary on how Donald Trump is doing, in keeping with presidential protocol which dictates that past residents of the White House do not step on the toes of the current occupant.

Obama, who was critical of President Trump during the election and as of late has had to watch key legislation and regulations he passed get rolled back, concluded on a positive note.

One of Obama's first job was as a community organizer in New York City as a student organizer, and he seems ready to go full circle after occupying the nation's highest office.

Obama was there to moderate a youth roundtable on community involvement. "All these problems are serious, they are daunting, but they are not insoluble", Obama said.

What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life. They talked about them the same way that you hear people talking about immigrants today.

On Monday, after brief remarks, the 44th president moderated a panel discussion with young activists and leaders.

The former president chose the University of Chicago, where he served as a lecturer at the law school, to return to the spotlight.

"That does change people's assumptions, when they get to know somebody directly", Obama chimed in, touching on campaigns he ran in the mostly red downstate IL. Obama will also hold several high-profile events in the weeks to come, some in the US and some in Europe.

But the nature of the criticism that Trump has launched at Obama marks a unique moment in modern U.S. history, Frantz says.