“Show up. Dive in. Persevere.”
That’s Barack Obama’s message to supporters as he begins to fill out the shape of the first phase of his post-presidency, announcing on Wednesday a series of programs and a young leaders summit to be held in Chicago on Oct. 31 and Nov. 1.
The former president has tried to stay out of the fray since leaving office in January, holding off on pleas from Democrats to more directly take on President Donald Trump, and sticking to just a few statements on key issues — the travel ban, Obamacare and the decision to end protections for Dreamers, people brought illegally into the country as children.
He sticks to that approach with his new announcement, despite the subtext that might be read into his call, repeated from his farewell address, for people to take a more active approach to civic engagement.
“Democracy is a job for all of us. What are you going to do about it?” Obama writes in the email. “I’ve never been more certain that we’ll rise to the occasion — together.”
Obama is also announcing a fellowship program through his foundation, a two-year program of training and development for people looking to get involved, in addition to one-day “training days” for leadership activities open to people 18 to 24. The first will be held in Chicago in October.
There will also be a formal housing of the My Brother’s Keeper program as part of the foundation, picking up the mentorship program for young black men that was started while he was in the White House.
“We read your letters, your emails, and your submissions to Obama.org. I sat down with young people from Chicago to Berlin to Jakarta to hear directly from the future leaders we want to cultivate,” Obama says in a video released by his foundation on Wednesday. “And what makes me so hopeful and optimistic is that so many of you have shown up, dived in, and embraced the kind of active citizenship that makes our democracy work.”
David Simas, the CEO of the foundation, stressed that this is just the initial set of programs announced for what is expected to be a decades-long, billion-dollar enterprise based out of the library that will be built on Chicago’s South Side.
“From leaders who are already making an impact, to people who are interested in becoming more involved, but don’t know where to start, our goal is to make our programs accessible to anyone, anywhere, with any background or level of experience,” Simas said in a statement. “This is only the beginning — our programs will grow as we continue to listen and learn.”