In his first public appearance since leaving office, former president Barack Obama appeared at a student forum this morning at the University of Chicago, joining a panel of young people in “conversation on community organizing and civic engagement.”
“So uh, what’s been going on while I’ve been gone?” Obama said with a smile, before beginning a roughly ten-minute monologue. “It is wonderful to be home, it is wonderful to be at the University of Chicago, it is wonderful to be on the South Side of Chicago and it is wonderful to be with these young people here.”
Obama never mentioned President Trump. He spoke briefly about the current media landscape saying, “because of changes in the media, we now have a situation in which everybody’s listening to people who already agree with them and are further and further reinforcing their own realities to the neglect of a common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate, and then try to find common ground and actually move solutions forward.”
The 44th president also listed challenges that he said are facing the country, including climate change, criminal justice reform, economic inequality, and violence.
“All these problems are serious, they are daunting, but they are not insoluble,” Obama said.
“What is preventing us from tackling them and making more progress really has to do with our politics and our civic life.”
He specifically pointed the finger at “political gerrymandering” for moving the political parties further apart; money in politics, which creates a system where “special interests define the debate in the Washington in ways;” and the polarization of media, which allows people to further enforce their own reality “to the neglect of a common reality.”
CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and CBSN were some of the national TV news outlets that carried the event.
Fox News and CBSN left the forum after Obama’s opening remarks, and before the student panel started.
CNN stuck with the forum until about 12:51 p.m. ET, and MSNBC moved to a split screen at around 12:54 p.m. ET, with Kristen Welker hosting the coverage and new MSNBC analyst (and former Obama press secretary) Josh Earnest serving as a notable participant in the conversation.
You can watch the event in its full entirety below: