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Obama Returns to Community Service During Inaugural Foundation Summit

  • VOA News

Former first lady Michelle Obama arrives on stage before speaking during the second day of the first Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Nov. 1, 2017.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama gathered artists, world leaders and business owners to help inspire young people from around the world at the inaugural leadership summit held by the Obama Foundation.

More than 500 young people from 60 nations and 27 U.S. states were picked to attend the summit, from thousands of applications and nominations, on merit of leadership and problem solving.

Former President Barack Obama addresses a crowd during the first session of the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Oct. 31, 2017.
Former President Barack Obama addresses a crowd during the first session of the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Oct. 31, 2017.

Obama has likened the gathering to a brainstorming session to help civic leaders spark bottom-up change in their communities, a lesson he said he learned as a young organizer.

“The moment we are in right now, politics is the tail and not the dog. What we need to do is think about our civic culture,” he said.

“Our goal is not to create a political movement,” Obama told the attendees at the two-day summit in Chicago’s South Side, where Obama plans to build a presidential center.

Britain's Prince Harry speaks at the first Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Oct. 31, 2017.
Britain's Prince Harry speaks at the first Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, Oct. 31, 2017.

“Our goal in this session is not to pump you up with a whole lot of PowerPoints, data and information or a blueprint for how you can go back and do what you are doing even better,” he said. “In many ways we want to learn from you as much as we want to share what we have learned.”

Among those who spoke at the summit were Britain’s Prince Harry, former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, Chance the Rapper and Michelle Obama.

The former first lady told the attendees words matter, particularly in an age where Twitter and other social media can be used like a weapon.

She says people shouldn’t “tweet every thought’’ because “first initial thoughts are not worthy of the light of day.’’

The comments drew laughter from the crowd as Obama added she wasn’t “talking about anybody in particular.”

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