Former President Barack Obama grinned broadly as he exited the Daley Center in the Loop Wednesday, perhaps because he was not called to serve on a jury.
Obama was treated like everyone else reporting for jury duty — for the most part.
He watched a 20-minute instructional video. He placed a red juror sticker on his chest. And he’ll receive a $17.20 check in the mail for his time.
But from the get-go, it was not a normal day at the Daley Center.
Word leaked that Obama would be there.
In case you were wondering, Obama has not forgotten how to work a room.
Videos and pictures posted to social media paint the picture.
“This looks like Chicago right here,” Obama said as he began to mingle.
“If I start taking selfies then we’re going to get no work done,” he joked, declining the request.
One juror, clearly in the know, produced a copy of Obama’s book “Dreams from my Father.”
“I can’t sign autographs,” Obama said. “But when the guy bought my book, I gotta.”
Please sign it “For Jim and Ann,” the man said.
“Anne with an E or no E?” Obama replied. “No E,” said the man.
“That’s how my mother’s name is spelled,” Obama said of his late mother Ann Dunham.
In a brief exchange about basketball with another juror, Obama proclaimed: “My shot’s broken. It’s broken.”
The man recording the video can be heard saying in disbelief: “…and I was going to ditch jury duty today.”
Secret Service agents tailed Obama around the room for a few minutes as he shook hands and allowed photographs before he was escorted from the general waiting room to while his time away in the private chambers of a judge who happened to be on vacation.
A total of 96 of the 168 potential jurors — or 57 percent — who arrived at the Daley Center Wednesday were called to appear in courtrooms for service.
The rest, including Obama, were not needed and sent home. The selection process was random.
But had he been chosen, Obama, a former law professor, would have been shown into a courtroom for the voir dire process — where lawyers pose a series of questions to potential jurors to ensure they’re free of bias or prejudice towards the issues involved in the case.
A trial could have taken days or even weeks.
Later Wednesday Obama was booked to give a speech at a downtown hotel before a group business leaders.
The host of the event: GCM Grosvenor, whose chairman and CEO, Michael Sacks, is a major donor to the Obama Foundation.
Chief Cook County Judge Tim Evans said Obama told him that he would absolutely be willing to serve if he was called.
“I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know of anybody who receives a summons from me and says ‘Oh, great! I get to serve jury duty,” Evans joked.
“If the former president of the United States takes his time to come, anybody ought to be willing to come,” he said.
As for Obama’s plans for the $17.20 that tax payers owe him for showing up Wednesday: “His staff members told me that he wanted to donate it back. I told them, well, my responsibility is to send it to him and if he wishes to donate it back to the citizens of this city, he can send it back.”
Or just not cash the check, Evans pointed out.