Obama wants to prepare next generation of leaders

This article is more than 12 months old

CHICAGO: Former US president Barack Obama returned to the public spotlight yesterday, saying he hopes to spend the next phase of his life helping to "prepare the next generation of leadership".

After three months off, Mr Obama - looking rested and sporting a coat with no tie - broke his silence in his adopted home town of Chicago, speaking to a packed auditorium of more than 400 high school and college students at the University of Chicago.

He was greeted with a standing ovation and was joined on stage by six students and recent college graduates for a discussion about the need for greater civic engagement among young people.

The 55-year-old Democrat, who ended his two terms at the White House in January - handing power over to Mr Donald Trump - said he was "incredibly optimistic" about the future.

He said: "I'm spending a lot of time thinking about: What is the most important thing I can do for my next job?

"The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world."

Mr Obama took a few questions from the participants on stage but mainly listened - and did not offer any substantive commentary on how Mr Trump is doing, in keeping with presidential protocol, which dictates that past residents of the White House do not step on the toes of the current occupant.

Until yesterday, he had not given a public speech or an interview since leaving the White House on January 20.

He has tweeted a few times and issued a few statements through a spokesman, notably to defend his signature domestic policy achievement, healthcare reform - which Mr Trump's Republicans are now hoping to dismantle.

Mr Obama's silence comes even as Mr Trump lobbed accusations on everything from Syria to gang violence in America. - AFP

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