Former President Barack Obama will make his first post-presidential public appearance on Monday, heading to the University of Chicago to discuss civic engagement and community organizing.
Obama’s Chicago talk will be followed by other high-profile events in the coming weeks in the United States, Milan and Berlin as he finally resurfaces in the public arena.
Obama’s 11 a.m. talk at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., will be a “conversation,” as he is flanked by six younger activists — some from Kenwood Academy High School, some in college, and some a little older than that, Obama spokesman Kevin Lewis told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The discussion, to be led by Obama, is part of the commitment the former president made to “engage the next generation of leaders,” Lewis said.
Whether there is much focus on President Donald Trump — or whether Obama engages at all on the president who is determined to undo his legacy achievements — remains to be seen.
Obama’s remarks will come days before April 29, which is when Trump hits his 100-day mark in office. Obama also is resurfacing the same week that Trump may try again — after one failed attempt — to repeal Obama’s signature health care law, and as the Trump White House also seeks to unravel the Iran nuclear deal.
The Logan Center event will have an invitation-only audience, to include students selected from, according to Obama’s office: Harold Washington College; Malcolm X College; Kennedy King College; Columbia College; University of Chicago; Chicago State University; University of Illinois at Chicago; Roosevelt University; Northwestern University; DePaul University, Illinois Institute of Technology; and Loyola University.
Obama will arrive in Chicago Sunday and might also do other things while in the city for a few days; it will be just his second trip back to Chicago since leaving the White House on Jan. 20.
He delivered his farewell address Jan. 10 at McCormick Place.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel served as Obama’s first White House chief-of-staff and twice benefited from Obama’s endorsements.
Although Obama chose to live in Washington, D.C., until his youngest daughter, Sasha, graduates from high school, the mayor considers the Chicago speech yet another indication of how strongly his former boss feels about the adopted hometown where his presidential library will be built.
“I’m immensely proud that his last speech as president was here in the city of Chicago and his first major address in his post-presidency is here in the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said Friday.
“It reflects his emotional as well as his intellectual commitment to this city and seeing this city as his home in that effort.”
Obama’s Monday appearance isn’t sponsored by his Obama Foundation, headquartered in university office space in Hyde Park. His first trip back to Chicago, on Feb. 15, was for meetings connected to his foundation.
The University of Chicago’s bid successfully landed the Obama Presidential Center — a museum, library and event complex in Jackson Park not far from the university and the Obama family’s Kenwood home.
Obama’s job as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side put him on a path that led to the White House. The Obama Center, mapping out its programming strategy, will likely include civic engagement and community organizing components.
According to an advisory from the Obama post-presidential office, located in Washington, the Chicago event “is part of President Obama’s post-presidency goal to encourage and support the next generation of leaders driven by strengthening communities around the country and the world.”
Obama comes home as some community groups are organizing to secure a “community benefits” agreement from the Obama Foundation in connection with the construction of the Obama Center. The foundation is opposed to community-benefit deals, arguing that the Obama Center — to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build and endow — is intended to bolster the surrounding community.
Former first lady Michelle Obama is not expected to join Obama on this Chicago trip. The former first couple recently vacationed on a yacht owned by entertainment tycoon David Geffen; they were joined by, among others, Oprah Winfrey, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Hanks.
Another Obama post-presidential speech will come May 7, when Caroline Kennedy, who played a pivotal role in his 2008 election and went on to become his ambassador to Japan, awards him the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award.
Obama’s first international appearance since leaving the White House will be in Milan, where he will speak May 9 at the Global Food Innovation Summit.
The Obama Foundation is also making its first international move, co-hosting a program in Berlin to take place May 25 at the Brandenburg Gate with Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Both Obamas have signed multimillion-dollar book deals since leaving the White House.
Contributing: Fran Spielman