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Obama to Focus Post-White House Work on Engaging Young People

by Andrew Rafferty /
Image: Former U.S. President Barack Obama meets with youth leaders in Chicago
Former U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a meeting with youth leaders at the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago to discuss strategies for community organization and civic engagement in Chicago on April 24, 2017.Kamil Krzaczynski / Reuters

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Former President Barack Obama said Monday that his post-White House work will focus heavily on encouraging young people to become politically involved during his first public event since leaving office.

“The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world,” Obama said at a forum at the University of Chicago.

Obama listed off a number of issues he intends to work on, including gerrymandering, criminal justice reform, and money in politics. But inspiring young people, Obama said, is “the most important thing I can do for my next job.

“What is preventing us from tackling [challenges] and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life,” he said.

Obama did not mention President Donald Trump, who is just days away from reaching his 100th day in office. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found Trump’s job approval rating at 40 percent, the lowest mark of any new president in the poll’s history.

The former president has largely avoided talking about his successor, but through a spokesman has denied Trump’s claim that Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower and said he “fundamentally disagrees” with the Trump administration’s temporary immigration ban from six Muslim-majority countries.

Obama was surrounded by young people at the forum held near the future site of his presidential library on Chicago’s South Side.

The president heard from and took questions from the students interested in becoming more politically active. The discussion ranged from how to get more young people interested in current events, the changing landscape of the news media, and the issues that come with running for office at a time when so much is shared online.

“If you had pictures of everything I had done during high school, I probably wouldn't be president of the United States,” Obama said.

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