Our most recent intelligible president Barack Obama had a lot of joy to spread, if you can remember that feeling, during his visit to the University of Chicago on Monday in his first speaking engagement since leaving office to go get tanned.
While engaging with students in a televised forum, Obama appeared at ease and jovial, perhaps in an effort to infect others with his unusual level of optimism. He avoided mentioning You Know The Guy I’m Talking About altogether. “What’s...what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” he joked, with a ominous chuckle to open his speech. Nothing has been going on and life has been boring as usual. Obama went on to reflect on his post-college days when he was “filled with idealism and absolutely certain that somehow I was going to change the world.” Unfortunately, that did not happen.
Oh wait, it did. :) As he’s wont to do, Barack babbled on about dreams and community outreach and such, using words we’ll never hear from our current president, like “daunting” and “pernicious.” “The distribution of city services were unequal. Schools were underfunded,” Obama recalled of his community organizer days. “For three years, I tried to do something about it. And I am the first to acknowledge that I did not set the world on fire. Nor did I transform these communities in any significant way, although we did some good things. But it did change me.” Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Was there anything else kinda pressing that he wanted to talk about? Well, he did stress that he feels good about, you know, things, given the state of...things. “I have to say that there’s a reason why I’m always optimistic when things look like they’re sometimes not going the way I want,” said Obama. “And that is because of young people like this.”
“I’m spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job,” he told students. “The single-most important thing that I can do is to help in any way I can prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world.”
There were moments of levity to his appearance, as we’ve come to expect from a president with a legitimate beating heart. For one, Obama advised the students to curb their social media oversharing, specifically selfies, if they cared about taking office in the future, even though suspiciously lewd government figures squirrel around on a daily basis. “If you had pictures of everything I did in high school,” Obama joked, “I probably wouldn’t be President of the United States.” Maybe this was a subtle reference to Trump doing everything wrong in high school, and also as an adult, and still landing the presidency. He added, “I think the best you can do is to own your life and your mistakes and the changes that you go through.”
Another thing: Obama is old. Not even that old in comparison to people older than him. But here he is having an Old moment when a student, Max Freedman, references being in eighth grade during his first term.
Here’s Tiffany Brown’s recollection of the time she met Obama. There’s a cute twist in a story that at first had Obama kinda sweating. (You’ll never believe this, but Obama was actually nice to her when they met.)
Here’s full video of Obama’s Q&A discussion with the students in which he seems genuinely interested in their ideas. He also makes a joke about cat videos.