Mr. Obama Makes First Public Comments


Former president talks with students at first public event since leaving White HouseFormer President Barack Obama chats with third-year UChicago student Max Freedman.

Obama, who once taught constitutional law at the school, recalled starting out as a young community organizer in the city and told a panel of six current and former students that he chose to focus his post-presidency on encouraging young people to engage with their communities.

During the hour-long speech, Obama engaged young leaders and community organizers at the University of Chicago on a number of vital topics affecting their generation.

Until Monday, he had not given a public speech or an interview since leaving the White House on January 20.

At the University of Chicago, where Obama previously taught constitutional law, the 44th US president and former Hyde Park resident spoke to an invitation-only audience from colleges and universities across the city.

In July, Chicago's historic Jackson Park won the bid to host Obama's presidential library, winning out over Washington Park.

Latest approval polls of Mr Trump are sitting around 40 percent, making him the least popular president at this point in a term since Dwight Eisenhower.

"The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world", he said.

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Youth civic engagement and community organizing are at the heart of the mission of the Obama Center, which is located on Chicago's South Side, where Obama started his career as a community activist.

Though Obama had a "well-deserved vacation" since Donald Trump's January inauguration, it was encouraging to to see him return to public appearances, Chamberlain said.

Though many of his supporters were expecting and even hoping for the former president to comment on these issues, he did not mention any of them.

In addition to Patel, a graduate of the University of IL at Chicago, Obama also spoke with Tiffany Brown, a doctoral graduate of Chicago State University and graduate of Kenwood Academy High School; Ramuel Figueroa, an undergraduate at Roosevelt University; Max Freedman, an undergraduate at the University of Chicago; Kelsey McClear, an undergraduate at Loyola University; and Ayanna Watkins, a senior at Kenwood.

The panel was then allowed to ask Obama questions, the event in total lasted almost 90 minutes.

Mr Obama outlined his view of a divided America riddled with problems, and said he wanted to use his influence to encourage young people to tackle those issues.

A spokesman for Obama said he does not plan to directly address Trump or his policies in any of his appearances. Acknowledging it may be cliche, Obama said, "Worry less about what you want to be and worry more about what you want to do".