Former President Barack Obama sat down to give advice to students in Chicago for his speaking engagement since he left office.
After returning from an extended and richly deserved vacation, what more appropriate place for his first speech than his hometown? The Associated Press reports that Obama took time today to speak with area students at the University of Chicago.
He started out with a joke, asking with a laugh , “So, what’s been going on since I’ve been gone?”
While the room hung on his every word, The New York Times reports that the event was something of a dialog between him and the audience as he led a discussion, imparting wisdom earned during his years as a community organizer and a young politician.
For example, he spoke on how important it is to connect with the community around you to determine what it needs. Obama also charmed everyone by slipping some humor into his confident, relaxed demeanor.
This was an appropriate return to the public eye as Obama explained that he will be taking a particular interest in civic engagement with young people.
While Obama had much to say about his plans for continuing his work now that he’s a private citizen, he intentionally didn’t make any direct mention of his presidential successor. Instead he’s focusing on making sure that he does his part to prepare tomorrow’s leaders.
“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–the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world,” he said.
Acknowledging issues such as economic inequality, a broken justice system, and climate change, Obama said that perhaps one of the most pressing matters is getting politicians (and citizens) to find a way to work together because it is the first step to making any progress.
“All those problems are serious, they’re daunting; but they’re not insoluble. What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life,” said Former President Obama. “It has to do with the fact that because of things like political gerrymandering our parties have moved further and further apart and it’s harder and harder to find common ground.”
For those who watched the speech, we were reminded of what it was like to see a mature, intelligent politician. It was all Twitter needed to pine for the Obama Administration.