Obama dishes on leadership in first speech since White House exit
Former President Barack Obama has used his first public appearance since leaving office to dole out advice to young people on leadership, managing social media and even marriage. What he didn’t do was mention his successor.
At a forum on Monday for students at the University of Chicago, adjacent to where his presidential library will stand, Obama talked about his formative experiences as a community organiser and as a young politician running for office in Illinois. But for much of the panel event, he listened.
“Although there are all kinds of issues that I care about and all kinds of issues that I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world,” Obama said during event, which was invite-only and streamed live online.
He told the hundreds of area students in the audience that his focus after holding the nation’s highest office will be civic engagement with young people, and he hopes his presidential library, which will stand near the edge of campus, will be part of that mission.
Since delivering his farewell address in his hometown of Chicago in January, Obama has kept a low profile. He met privately on Sunday with a group of at risk young men, talking about gang violence and opportunities for jobs.
His first public engagement came as President Donald Trump neared his 100-day mark in office. But Obama shied away from addressing specific policies or his own two terms as president.
When a college student panelist asked how to conduct a project involving interviewing day labourers, Obama told him to ditch the clipboard. When others asked about being young in the age of social media, Obama advised them to limit photos posted online, including being “more circumspect about your selfies”.
He also dropped in a marital tidbit, saying it’s best to “listen to understand” instead of listening “to respond”.
“I learned that in marriage,” he said to laughs from the audience. “That’ll save you a lot of heartache and grief.”