Obama is back for first speech since leaving office

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Chicago (AFP) – After several months off largely out of the public eye, former US president Barack Obama returns to center stage Monday, giving a speech in his adopted hometown of Chicago that — theoretically — will not touch on current politics.

Obama will take part in a discussion on community organizing and civic engagement with students from area schools at the University of Chicago, where he once was a lecturer at the law school.

The event begins at 11 am (1600 GMT).

Donald Trump’s Democratic predecessor has 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, health care reform — which Trump’s Republicans are now hoping to dismantle.

Obama also spoke up when his billionaire successor accused him of personally ordering the wiretapping of Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But for now, he has abstained from any substantive commentary on how 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.

That silence comes in the face of accusations by Trump on everything from Syria, with the Republican all but accusing Obama of bearing responsibility for chemical weapons attacks by the Damascus regime, to gang violence in America.

Youth civic engagement and community organizing are at the heart of the Obama Center, which is located on Chicago’s South Side, where Obama started his career as a community activist.

On Sunday, America’s first black president privately met with at-risk youth from the South Side to discuss gang violence, jobs and training, according to The Chicago Tribune.

The Obamas are currently renting a house in Washington, where their youngest daughter Sasha is finishing high school.

Since leaving office, Obama has gone kitesurfing in the Caribbean with British billionaire Richard Branson.

He then spent nearly a month in French Polynesia, where he vacationed on media mogul David Geffen’s yacht — and was reportedly working on his book.

But after Monday, his public schedule will pick up pace.

On May 7, he will receive the 2017 Profile in Courage award from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston.

He will give a private paid speech during a visit to Italy.

And then on May 25, he will deliver a speech at a Protestant church gathering at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, with Chancellor Angela Merkel at his side.

Obama, who developed a close working relationship with Merkel during eight years in the Oval Office, visited Berlin in November as part of his last foreign tour before handing over to Trump.

Former president Barack Obama returns to the political limelight with a speech in Chicago, his adopted hometown
Copyright AFP/File JIM WATSON