While it might be a heretical admission coming from a conservative blogger, but there are many reasons to believe that Barack Obama’s post-presidency will be an industrious and ultimately beneficial one. Though it’s a low hurdle to clear, surely Obama’s time out of office will be spent pursuing more productive pursuits than were his years in the Oval Office.
Early last year, the president began preparing for life outside of the White House when he revealed that he would launch a program aimed at addressing the struggles encountered by young, black men. Calling the program “My Brother’s Keeper,” Obama will focus on providing assistance to and serving as a role model for young African-American males.
“Obama, who wrote a best-selling memoir probing questions of race, identity and his own fatherlessness, is plotting a return to the issues that have been central to his own life and will continue to shape generations of young black men after he leaves the White House,” Yahoo’s Liz Goodwin and Garance Franke-Ruta reported at the time. And, you know what? They’re right.
Barack Obama is uniquely positioned to penetrate the minds of America’s young, disenfranchised, urban minorities. Given the last year, in which young minorities frustrated with their surroundings and both perceived and genuine injustices engaged in waves of urban violence, any extent to which the president can mitigate that sense of disenfranchisement will be welcome.
On Thursday, Obama elaborated further on his plans for post-presidency in a speech to school children in Washington D.C. The president said that he hopes to devote his attention to expanding access to education and economic opportunity when he leaves office, and he directly alluded to his days as a young community organizer in Chicago.
“I’ll be done being president in a couple of years and I’ll still be a pretty young man,” Obama told the assembled children. “And so I’ll go back to doing the kinds of work I was doing before, just trying to find ways to help people.”
Obama told the group of children that he was inspired to go into public service by people on the front lines of the civil rights movement who helped push for equal treatment for African-Americans at the local level.
“Help young people get an education, help people get jobs, bring businesses into neighborhoods that don’t have enough businesses,” he said. “That’s the kind of work that I really love to do.”
During the event in Southeast Washington, Obama announced a new initiative to provide 10,000 new e-books to low-income youth.
It’s certainly fashionable to mock the president’s service as a community organizer, whatever that is, and to criticize that experience as insufficient to prepare oneself for the presidency. If the Obama era has definitively proven anything, it is this critique was perfectly accurate. But Obama could do worse than to devote his life outside of the Oval Office to the cause of bettering the conditions experienced by young, male, urban minorities.
A loving father, a devoted husband, and a wildly successful and powerful public servant, Obama is a powerful role model for young Americans. So long as he devotes his career to service and not to criticizing his successor, Obama’s post-presidency might end up being be a praiseworthy one.