CHICAGO (CBSNewYork/CBS Chicago/AP) — Former President Barack Obama used his first public appearance since leaving office to talk with students about his experiences as a community organizer in Chicago and how that laid the foundation for his political career.
He delivered a speech to students at the University of Chicago — where he once served as a lecturer at the Law School teaching constitutional law — as part of his mission to encourage and support the next generation of leaders.
“So what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” Obama said as he took the stage. “It is wonderful to be home, it is wonderful to be at the University of Chicago, it is wonderful to be on the South Side of Chicago, and it is wonderful to be with these young people here.”
Obama shared the stage with five college students and graduates and one high school senior, talking about what’s keeping some young people from being more involved in their communities. The students said leaders don’t make real connections with them or each other.
Obama said young people are the key to solving the nation’s most daunting problems and his plan after holding the nation’s highest office is to work with them.
An immigrant who said he ran for office, but lost, asked the former president about failure.
Obama spoke about his sole election defeat, when he lost in his race against U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) in the 2000 Democratic primary. The former president said he ran without a clear idea of his goal beyond being elected.
“This is a mistake I think a lot of folks who get into politics make, and so when I see White House interns or I talk to young people, I always tell them, ‘Worry less about what you want to be, and worry more about what you want to do,’” he said.
That was advice the whole audience appreciated.
Obama gave advice on leadership and even social media, but didn’t mention his successor or detail his thoughts on current events.
But now that he has left elected office, Obama said he has considered a number of possibilities for his “next job,” CBS Chicago reported.
“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,” he said.
Roughly 500 people, mostly college students, attended the invitation-only event that was also televised.
On Sunday, Obama met privately with young men on the city’s South Side to talk about gang violence and employment.
Since leaving the White House, Mr. Obama has stayed clear of the public.
He and former First Lady Michelle Obama were spotted vacationing on an island in the Caribbean.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)