In his first public appearance since leaving office in January, former President Barack Obama stepped back into the spotlight Monday for a conversation with University of Chicago students.
His first public comments were to focus on “community organizing and civic engagement” with young leaders.
Fresh from vacation in French Polynesia, the Chicago event is the first in a series of public appearances over the next four weeks for Obama. From Illinois, he will head to an awards ceremony in Boston and conduct a series of public remarks and paid private speeches across the U.S. and Europe, including an appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in Germany alongside Chancellor Angela Merkel, The New York Times reported.
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Taking his signature laid-back approach as he walked on stage at the University of Chicago on Monday, the former president asked jokingly, “What’s been going on while I’ve been gone?”
Rather than being explicitly political, Obama’s Monday event is “part of President Obama's post-presidency goal to encourage and support the next generation of leaders driven by strengthening communities around the country and the world,” according to the event program.
Former advisers of the 44th president said Obama would not use his platform to criticize the actions of current President Donald Trump, who had systematically tried to dismantle Obama’s legislative legacy during his first 100 days in office — most notably Trump’s attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, NBC reported.
“His mission is going to be to inspire these young people and there’ll be a diverse group, including Republicans as well as Democrats, but to inspire them to take ownership of this political process and really get involved,” former White House adviser David Axelrod, who now serves as the director of the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, told NBC.