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What Obama Said on His First Day Back in Public Life

Former President Obama returned to public life today, indicating some topics he’ll focus on during his post-presidency.
Former US President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks at a forum with young leaders to discuss community organizing at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois on April 24, 2017. (JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)

Former President Obama returned to public life today, indicating some topics he’ll focus on during his post-presidency. His remarks were made at the University of Chicago during a forum with young leaders to discuss community organizing.

Obama’s words were heavily anticipated because of the rancor surrounding the November election, yet the former President avoided any mention of his predecessor. He joked at the opening of his remarks, “So what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?”

The former President also said, setting the stage for his comments, “I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job?” Then he gave some clues.

Community Organizing

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.

“It was a little over 30 years ago that I came to Chicago. I was 25 years old, and I had gotten out of college filled with idealism and absolutely certain that somehow I was going to change the world. But I had no idea how, or where or what I was going to be doing. So I worked, first to pay off some student loans, and then I went to work at the City Colleges of New York on their Harlem campus with some student organizing.”

“The single most important thing I can do is to help…prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton, and take their own crack at changing the world.”

“[W]e have some of the lowest voting rates of any advanced democracy, and low participation rates which translate into a further gap between who is governing us and what we believe. The only folks who are gonna be able to solve that problem are gonna be young people—the next generation.”


“Because of things like political gerrymandering, our parties have moved further and further apart and it’s harder and harder to find common ground.”

Tackling Special Interests

“Because of money in politics, special interests dominate the debate in Washington in ways that don’t match up with what the broad majority of Americans feel.”

Media Literacy

Obama apparently has no interest in starting a media company, but he is concerned with changes in the media landscape.  

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“Because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody’s listening to people who already agree with them, and are further and further reinforcing their own realities to the neglect of a common reality; that allows us to have a healthy debate and then try to find common ground and then actually move solutions forward.”

The remainder of the time was given to—you guessed it—young people, who Obama hopes to inspire to take a more active role in civic life, and in politics. 


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