In His First Post-Presidency Speech, Obama Gives Life Advice, Avoids Talk of Trump

April 24, 2017 1:03 pm
Former U.S. President Barack Obama visits with youth leaders at the University of Chicago to help promote community organizing on April 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Millions of people around the world tuned in to see former President Barack Obama on Monday in his first public appearance since leaving the White House in January.

The invitation-only talk was broadcast live and filled with life advice and ways to navigate a changing world for a group of college students at the University of Chicago. But the discussion left out one important theme: Obama’s successor. Obama and the six selected students, a group of America’s future leaders, never once mentioned current President Donald Trump.

The former president’s aides have previously stated that the former commander-in-chief will not publicly criticize the current leader, believing rather that there should be only one president at a time.

Instead, the hour-long talk was meant to “encourage and support the next generation of leaders driven by strengthening communities around the country and the world,” according to a statement from Obama’s office.

A packed auditorium in Chicago, near the site of the future Obama Foundation, cheered as Obama made his way on stage. “So what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” he joked.

Among the many topics presented were how people receive information with changes in technology, creating common conversations with others who don’t share similar view points, and persevering after failure.

With today’s generation “getting all of their information from their phones you don’t have to confront people who have different opinions,” Obama said. “Are there ways for us to create a common conversation?” he asked.

Students were eager to ask questions and find out what he has next on his calendar now that he is no longer president.

Later, one student asked the best ways to deal with failure.

“With respect to failure, it’s terrible. But necessary,” Obama said. “If you’re going to try something hard, there are going to be times when you screw up and don’t succeed.”

Obama said instead to “own” previous mistakes—even in the age of the Internet when the past never disappears.

“It doesn’t mean it’s always pleasant to have people up in your business,” he said. “You’re human. You make mistakes and you grow. I think most people understand that.”

The former president spent two days in Chicago. On Sunday, he met with young people for a roundtable discussion as part of the Chicago Create Real Economic Destiny organization. Obama has said he is excited to work with more young people in the future on both the Obama Foundation and in other capacities.

“I’m always optimistic even when things aren’t going perfectly because of young people like this,” he said.


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