Barack's back! The former president delivered his first public comments since leaving the White House today, taking the stage at the University of Chicago in the city which will host his forthcoming presidential library. Watch it here:
The timing of this was poetic, as we approach the 100-day mark of Trump's presidency. With this event Obama signaled a return to the public eye, though close watchers are noting the tone and posture: This was not intended to be a political barn-burner, billed rather as an event to "encourage and support the next generation of leaders." (In true professorial form, Obama convened a nerdy panel with lots of viewpoints on obstacles to civic engagement.) Also, this was a free event, albeit an invite-only one, which pundits are saying may be a means to ease the bitter pill of the slew of paid speeches you just know the man has lined up.
Of course, there was some policy positioning: Obama identified criminal justice reform, violence, economic inequality and climate change as issues he still cares about deeply. But overall, this event tips off a series of appearances here and in Europe which the President's people insist are not intended to directly attack Trump, even though Trump's busy trying to dismantle Obama's key legislative achievements. The President is high-minded about his post-Presidential life, at least in explicit terms, seeking to rally the next generation of leaders, write his memoir, and set up his library, with the occasional meeting with at-risk youth in Chicago (as he did Sunday). But don't get it twisted, Obama's still got fight in him, he's just choosing his timing. And one fight he's already pushing into: a collaborative effort to tackle gerrymandering (or the redrawing of political districts with the intent to minimize the voting power of racial or cultural minorities) with former Attorney General Eric Holder.
The next arc in the Obama story is just beginning to take shape. Today was the acknowledgements before the intro. Let's see where this one goes.