Former President Obama urges patience in push for grassroots change
By Chris Kenning
CHICAGO (Reuters) – Former President Barack Obama on Wednesday resurrected his campaign slogan of hope and change as he closed his foundation’s first summit launching his post-presidency initiative to foster young civic leaders.
Obama held the invitation-only summit in Chicago for 500 hand-picked young leaders from 60 nations and 27 U.S. states to share ideas and hear speakers, including Britain’s Prince Harry, along with artists, chefs, activists and politicians.
The 44th U.S. president urged patience as he told participants they would help shape the Obama Foundation’s emerging plans to encourage grassroots solutions to problems ranging from mass incarceration to income inequality.
“People always misunderstood sometimes that the slogan we used, hope, the audacity of hope. Hope does not mean that tomorrow everything’s going to be better,” Obama said. “Change is possible if we put our shoulder to the wheel. But it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Obama did not mention President Donald Trump, who has sought to dismantle many of Obama’s policies, including his signature domestic policy achievement, the Affordable Care Act, and deportation protections for young immigrants.
Former first lady Michelle Obama, discussing her upbringing and public service, urged attendees to be cautious of the power of social media.
“You don’t tweet every thought,” she said, drawing laughter. “I’m not talking about anybody in particular,” she added, also without mentioning Trump, who has used Twitter continually to blast out opinions.
The conference was held on the South Side of Chicago, where the Obama Foundation plans to build a presidential center near the neighborhoods where Obama was a community organizer and which helped propel his political career.
Hip-Hop artist Common and Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the hit musical “Hamilton,” appeared together to discuss art and activism.
“You can make your voice heard and make an enormous difference,” Common said.
In a show of star power, the event was to wrap up Wednesday with a concert including comedian Aziz Ansari and music acts Gloria Estefan, Nas, The National and Chance the Rapper.
(Reporting by Chris Kenning; Editing by Leslie Adler)