SOUTH LOOP — Barack Obama settled into a new role as inspirer-in-chief as he wrapped up his foundation’s inaugural summit in the South Loop.
Obama took the stage after a rapid-fire round of 10 presenters making abbreviated TED-style talks about how to fix the criminal justice system, enliven investigative journalism and motivate volunteers in the wake of natural disasters.
He said his goal for the day was not to fix every problem in the world, but to get people together who shared a passion to change the world.
“On that front, I for one, think it’s been a success,” Obama said. “You’ve been inspiring to me and you’ve been inspiring to each other.”
He warned the 500 people in the Marriot Marquis ballroom that they would likely face frustrations trying to make change in their communities and reminded them the promises of the civil rights movement of the 1960s are still in the process of being fulfilled.
“That’s 20 to 30 years, and to all of you that seems like a mighty long time, but in the arc of history is yesterday,” Obama said.
He encouraged the participants to stay in touch and to reach out to each other when they’re frustrated.
Obama said his foundation would be there to remind them of the change they promised to work toward when they left and asked each person to write down what they hoped to accomplish.
“We’re going to record them, not for me and the foundation but for you, so you are reminded of what you think you need to be doing,” Obama said.
The crowd left for a dinner prepared by renowned chef Jose Andres and then on to a concert with Common, Chance the Rapper and others.