Obama avoids Trump, talks unity and youth during Chicago return

- At his first, public post-White House event, former President Barack Obama never mentioned the current president by name. Still, Donald Trump's drive to dismantle Obama's proudest achievements inspired a brief pep talk.

“There's a reason why I'm always optimistic, even when things look like they're sometimes not going the way I want. And that is because of young people like this. And it gives you a sense, I think, of what's possible for this country,” Obama said.

He said he sees four threats to american democracy: gerrymandered legislative districts that empower extremists in both parties; big money's growing power; and polarized news media; all of which foster the fourth threat: voter apathy, especially among the young.

“I'm spending a lot of time thinking about what is the most important thing I can do for my next job? The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way prepare the next generation of leadership,” Obama said.

He said his Obama Foundation and Presidential Center would focus on "creating opportunities" for young people to get politically engaged. Signaling that he won't limit himself to Democrats, during Obama's event he sat next to Max Freedman, a University of Chicago "Young Republican." 

The former president told the mostly liberal crowd to avoid name-calling, especially when seeking support on emotional issues like immigration.

“I think it's important for those who support, as I do, immigration reform and pathways to citizenship for folks who are here, not to assume that everybody who has trouble with the current immigration system is automatically racist,” Obama said.

Some Democratic political activists were disappointed at Obama's remarks, one calling them "mealy-mouthed." She said she hopes Obama will soon denounce President Trump and rally the opposition. 

Not happening, at least for now.

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