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Obama Returns to Public Stage for First Time in University of Chicago Forum

by Kelly O'Donnell /  / Updated 
Former President Barack Obama smiles as he hosts a conversation on civic engagement and community organizing, Monday, April 24, 2017, at the University of Chicago in Chicago. It's the former president's first public event of his post-presidential life in the place where he started his political career.Charles Rex Arbogast / AP

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Barack Obama is returning to the public stage on Monday for the first time since leaving office.

The 44th president is appearing in a forum at the University of Chicago with a group of politically diverse students from high school age to graduate school level.

Obama, who is leading the forum, was not expected to criticize President Donald Trump, advisers said, but would advocate for his own administration's policies, like the Affordable Care Act.

 Former US President Barack Obama speaks at a forum with young leaders to discuss community organizing at the University of Chicago on April 24, 2017. Jim Young / AFP - Getty Images

Advisers added that the six students, which include one self-identified Republican and others who called themselves Democrats or progressives, would not be censored if they discussed Trump.

The sources said Obama has not been in touch with Trump since he left office — though he expects to be a "resource" if needed. They added that the lack of contact between the presidents should not suggest “anything bad” about their relationship.

 President Barack Obama meets with "at risk" young men from the CRED program started by former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan. Arion Askew

Obama had not met the students, who the advisers described as active in civic life.

Monday’s event is not sponsored by Obama’s presidential foundation, advisers said. The former president is acting as an individual and is working with the University of Chicago, they said.

On Sunday, Obama met with several young men who a spokesman described as at risk in the South Side Chicago neighborhood where the former president once worked as a community organizer.

They “shared that they aspired to help reduce gang violence in their communities,” said the spokesman, Kevin Lewis.

The meeting was the first in what Lewis said was series of efforts begun by Barack and Michelle Obama to tackle violence, poverty and unemployment around the country.

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