April 24 (UPI) — Former President Barack Obama, making his first public appearance Monday since leaving the White House in January, told a group of young adults in Chicago he wants to “prepare the next generation of leadership.”
Obama spoke to young leaders at the Conversation on Civic Engagement forum at the University of Chicago, where he once taught constitutional law. The appearance took place near his planned presidential library and museum in Jackson Park. The invitation-only audience and six-member panel included students from Chicago-area colleges.
“So, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” asked the smiling former president as he took his seat on the stage at the Logan Center for the Arts. “It is wonderful to be home.”
Since leaving office, Obama said he has spent a lot of time “thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job.”
“What I’m convinced of is that 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 that I can — prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world,” Obama said.
Students discussed the importance of community organizing and civic engagement.
“Are there ways we can knock down some of the barriers that are discouraging young people from a life of service?” Obama said. “I want to work to knock down those barriers and to get this generation to accelerate their move toward leadership.”
He noted several problems — economic inequality, the nation’s criminal justice system, climate change and gun violence.
“All those problems are serious. They’re daunting. But they’re not insolvable,” Obama said.
Obama didn’t discuss the current state of politics.
Obama arrived Sunday in Chicago on a private plane and returned near where he started his career as a community organizer.
Obama met with at-risk young men and boys from the organization Chicago Create Real Economic Destiny on the city’s South Side.
Later Sunday, Obama hosted a dinner for his Obama Presidential Center and then spent the night at his home.
His last public address in Chicago was from McCormick Place on Jan. 10, 10 days before he left office.