Barack Obama is the man that many Americans just didn’t appreciate until he was gone. However, since he left office, he has been living his best life. He has vacationed in beautiful tropical islands, done extreme sports, and has celebrated a peaceful time with his family. However, his hiatus has ended and he has returned to the public life once again. On Monday, he gave his first post presidency speech in his hometown of Chicago, noticeably more bronze, more relaxed, and definitely tieless.
Keeping his post presidency speech classy and professional, Obama starts off with a joke, questioning “So what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” However he quickly moved forward, outlining the journey that brought him to be the politician and President that we’ve come to know. He ultimately gave credit to Chicago, and his work he did there, before he knew what work he wanted to do, that led him down the path to Presidency.
“…the lessons that had been taught to me here as an organizer are ones that stayed with me. And effectively gave me the foundation for my subsequent political career…”
But the point of the evening was not for #44 to outline to his audience his own achievements, but instead to talk about the next steps he feels his career should take. He spent time outlining the apparent problems in our democracy: red/blue line politics, low civic involvement, the power of special interests, and the rapidly decreasing volume of the voice of the people. As his speech grew to a close, his purpose for the afternoon became clear:
“The only folks who are going to be able to solve that problem are going to be young people, the next generation. And I have been encouraged everywhere I go in the United States, but also everywhere around the world to see how sharp and astute and tolerant and thoughtful and entrepreneurial our young people are. A lot more sophisticated than I was at their age. And so the question then becomes what are the ways in which we can create pathways for them to take leadership, for them to get involved?…. Because if that happens, I think we’re going to be just fine.”
The former POTUS’ goal in speaking today was to find a way to encourage America’s youth to step up and become America’s leaders. However, as he pointed out, the necessary trait for this to work is that young people need to be interested and involved in politics and what is going on in their country. Despite the horrific things that have happened in Donald Trump’s first 100 days, Obama still emphasizes the importance of positivity and hope. His speech was only the opening to a panel discussion with students from the University of Chicago whom his administration has taken an interest in. These students were asked various questions on changes they want to see in their communities, schools, and country.
However, what was notably missing from Obama’s speech, was a direct response to the politics of #45, Donald Trump. However, the panelists weren’t having Obama’s classy hands off approach. Many times, they asked questions that attempted to force him to talk about Trump’s failures as a president. And while he did talk about his disappointment in the division of the country and the loss of hope as a result of certain policies, he never once mentioned Trump. And while we’re all wondering what Barry’s thinking about Trump’s job performance so far, I’m sure we can all imagine what Luther (his anger interpreter) would say.