Obama and young leaders will hold a conversation on civic engagement and discuss community organizing at the university’s Logan Center for the Arts, his office announced Friday.
Hundreds of people are expected to attend, chosen from area universities that were given tickets for distribution, said Kevin Lewis, a spokesman for the former president. About six young people will appear on stage with him for the 11 a.m. discussion, Lewis said.
The event will be a homecoming for Obama on multiple levels. He formerly taught constitutional law at the U. of C. and his family has a home nearby in the Kenwood neighborhood. It also lets the former president, who came to Chicago to work as a young community organizer, fulfill one of the commitments he set out for his post-presidential years: to engage and work with the country’s next generation of leaders, Lewis said.
“This event is part of President Obama’s post-presidency goal to encourage and support the next generation of leaders driven by strengthening communities around the country and the world,” an advisory said.
No tickets remain for distribution to the general public, but the event will be televised. Former first lady Michelle Obama is not expected to accompany her husband on the trip, Lewis said.
Among the schools given tickets are the U. of C., Northwestern University, Loyola University Chicago, University of Illinois Chicago, Roosevelt University and Chicago State University, Lewis said. Minority-serving organizations also were given tickets, he said.
The participants on stage with Obama are expected to range from high school to college to recent university graduates. According to Lewis, they have all been chosen and are from the Chicago area, but their names were not released Friday.
Obama, who left office Jan. 20, has visited Chicago once since then for a meeting connected to his future Presidential Center planned for Jackson Park. This event is not being sponsored by the Obama Foundation, Lewis said.
“He’s really excited to go back to Chicago and have a conversation about community organizing and civic engagement,” Lewis said.
Obama is expected to stay in Chicago for “a couple of days,” and his remaining schedule was not released.
“During his tenure as president, he had town halls at universities, sit-downs with young people at the White House, and even countries around the world,” Lewis said.
“This is something meaningful to him and he wants to continue those conversations,” Lewis said.
Less than a month after his term ended, Obama made a largely under-the-radar visit to Chicago on Feb. 15 to meet with several civic leaders to discuss his future presidential center. The visit was announced to the press with few details late that day, and he made no appearances before the general public — or television cameras.
The new event, by contrast, will draw media coverage and is sure to be watched around the world. And it comes a few days before President Donald Trump is poised to mark his 100th day in office on April 29.
Obama has been writing his memoirs amid a succession of celebrity-filled vacations intended to allow him and the former first lady to decompress. Reports have had him as far away as Tetiaroa, a French Polynesian island once owned by Marlon Brando.
Now, the timing of the Chicago event suggests an increasing public profile for the former leader. On May 7, he will be in Boston to receive the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Profile in Courage award. It’s being called the centennial award since the former Democratic president was born 100 years ago.