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Obama makes first public remarks since leaving office

Monday - 24/04/2017 13:52
The president said his experience as a community organizer in Chicago gave him the foundation for his subsequent political career.

In his first public remarks since leaving office, former President Barack Obama said he is hoping to inspire young leaders and “help them take a crack at changing the world.”

“I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job,” Obama said Monday while leading a panel discussion on community organizing and civic engagement at the University of Chicago. “And what I’m convinced is that, while there are all kinds of issues that I care about, and all kinds of issues I intend to work on, the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership take up the baton.”

Obama said “political gerrymandering” in Washington, D.C., is preventing the country from tackling problems like economic inequality, a broken criminal justice system and climate change.

“All those problems are serious,” Obama said. “They’re daunting. But they’re not insoluble.”

“Our parties are moving further and further apart,” he continued. “And there’s harder to find common ground.”

The former president also decried the echo chamber caused by the changing media landscape and smart-phone-connected culture.

“We now have a situation in the media where everybody is listening to people who already agree with them,” Obama said. “The only folks that are going to be able to solve that problem are going to be young people.”

The president said his experience as a community organizer in Chicago gave him the foundation for his subsequent political career.

“I did not set the world on fire, but it changed me,” Obama said. “The experience taught me that everybody has a story to tell that is important.”

Obama leads a panel discussion at the the University of Chicago on Monday. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
Obama leads a panel discussion at the the University of Chicago on Monday. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

Obama — who has spent the last three months on an extended vacation that included stops in Palm SpringsRichard Branson’s private Caribbean island and French Polynesia — did not mention President Trump by name.

“So, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” he joked as he took his seat on panel.

The discussion also showcased the former president’s self-deprecating sense of humor.

When one of the panelists said he was in 8th grade in 2008 during Obama’s first election, Obama interrupted him.

“Can I just say, I’m old,” the 55-year-old ex-president said. “But please continue.”

Another lighthearted moment came when another member of the panel said she’s learned to “listen to understand rather than listen to respond.”

“Yeah, I’ve learned that in marriage,” Obama said. “Just a tip for you young people.”

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