Former President Barack Obama spoke publicly for the first time since leaving the White House today.
Obama led a panel discussion billed as a quote “conversation on community organizing and civic engagement” at the University of Chicago Monday. Part of his goal is to encourage and support the next generation of leaders. Obama traded questions with a number of young activists for more than an hour.
The ex-president reflected on a number of topics, from his time as a community organizer in Chicago, to getting to know the people of Illinois as a State Senator. Together with the panel, Obama called for more face-to-face interactions between people who disagree. He said that he was able to run for the statewide office only because he had toured Illinois and had conversations with Republicans, which he said illuminated their shared values. He also said that having the same views affects healthy debate.
“Because of changes in the media we now have a situation in which everybody’s listening to people who already agree with them,” said the former president, “and are further and further reinforcing their own realities to the neglect of the common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate and then try to find common ground and actually move solutions forward.”