Former US president Barack Obama returned to the public spotlight today, saying he hopes to spend the next phase of his life helping to “prepare the next generation of leadership.” After three months off, Obama broke his silence in his adopted hometown of Chicago, speaking to high school and college students about the need for greater civic engagement. The 55-year-old Democrat, who ended his two terms at the White House in January — handing power over to Donald Trump — said he was “incredibly optimistic” about the future, and that problems facing America could be solved. “On the back end now of my presidency, now that it’s completed, I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job?” Obama said in his opening remarks at the University of Chicago, where he once was a lecturer at the law school.
“What I’m convinced is that… the single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.” Until today, Donald Trump’s Democratic predecessor had not given a public speech or an interview since leaving the White House on January 20. He has tweeted a few times and issued a few statements through a spokesman, notably to defend his signature domestic policy achievement, health care reform — which Trump’s Republicans are now hoping to dismantle.
Obama also spoke up when his billionaire successor accused him of personally ordering the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign. But for now, he has abstained from any substantive commentary on how Trump is doing, in keeping with presidential protocol which dictates that past residents of the White House do not step on the toes of the current occupant. That silence comes in the face of accusations by Trump on everything from Syria, with the Republican all but accusing Obama of bearing responsibility for chemical weapons attacks by the Damascus regime, to gang violence in America.