With only months left in the Oval Office, President Obama is shedding some of his presidential reserve and revealing a funnier — and darker — side to his personality than we have seen before. With the freedom from the constraints of office beckoning in the future, President Obama is looking forward to being “unshackled” (as some would say) and making more of a stir than ever before.
President Obama revealed a few more concrete plans at a town hall hosted by ESPN’s The Undefeated on Tuesday. The site is ESPN’s initiative focused on racial and cultural issues. Among issues pertinent to sports, the president also discussed his future plans once leaving the White House.
According to TIME, Obama intends to continue some of the programs that he and his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, started during his term as president, including My Brother’s Keeper and Let Girls Learn.
My Brother’s Keeper is a result of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the trial that saw George Zimmerman acquitted. A private My Brother’s Keeper Alliance was launched last May in the Bronx, which will provide a formal platform for the president to become more involved after leaving office. When discussing his approach to activism, the president told the audience at The Undefeated forum:
‘How you do it is less important than your commitment to use whatever platforms you have to speak to the issues that matter to people.’
The initiative focuses on providing opportunity and mentoring for young minority men, Obama explained:
‘The central principle is: for so many of our boys, it is important to have an adult who is taking an interest in them. Who tells them you are worth something, you are important.’
In a September Vanity Fair interview with presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, Obama mused about his future plans and how he expects that a post-presidential life will lift the burdens of office to allow him to focus on causes that are particularly close to the his heart.
Aside from “sleeping for two weeks, getting in some body surfing back home in Hawaii, and being able to drive his own car again,” Obama told Goodwin that:
‘When I leave I’ll be 55, and I’ll have an entirely new chapter of my life—the work I want to do with a presidential-center library, creating a platform for the next generation of young leaders across disciplines to work together … [and other] things that in some ways I suspect I’m able to do better out of this office.
‘Having had this office has given me this incredible perch from which to see how the world works. The power of the office is unique and it is a humbling privilege. With that power, however, also comes a whole host of institutional constraints. There are things I cannot say. There are things that I cannot say, not out of any political concerns, but out of prudential concerns of the office. There are institutional obligations I have to carry out that are important for a president of the United States to carry out, but may not always align with what I think would move the ball down the field on the issues that I care most deeply about.
‘And [George Washington] understood that part of the experiment we were setting up was this idea that you serve the nation and then it’s over, and then you’re a citizen again. And that “office of citizen” remains important, but your ability to let go is part of the duty that you have.
‘As important as taking hold of the office is letting go of the office. And they’re of a piece — it is an expression of our fidelity to the ideals upon which this nation was founded.
President Obama has no plan on sitting out the clock, however, nor becoming a “lame duck” president. In fact, he is pushing even harder for a few goals that he wants to achieve before January 19.
According to BBC News, Obama has outlined a series of goals for the presidency, as well as campaigning for his hopeful successor, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
President Obama is also focusing on ISIS, and taking back territory to liberate Mosul and Raqqa. He is also still focusing on the criminal justice system, and has released over 100 federal prisoners early, with plans to reduce sentences for others in the coming months. Obama is still working on closing Guantanamo, and American Civil Liberties Union’s Chris Anders meets with the White House aides frequently in order to transfer detainees.
Another initiative launched by the president focuses on finding a cure for cancer, and he even wrote a CNN op-ed about the importance of getting to Mars.
It will be interesting to see which of these programs finds a post-presidential Barack Obama feverishly working away for these causes. Considering his relative youth and the passion with which he has always approached public service, we may find that he truly will be a more effective and inspiring progressive than even the past eight years in the White House have allowed.
You can view the entire ESPN The Undefeated forum with President Obama below.
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