It’s been something of a cliche for Presidents to found a foundation after leaving office. Now, as they leave the White House and rejoin the ranks of private citizens, Barack and Michelle Obama look to form their own foundation. In a YouTube video released Friday, Barack and Michelle bid farewell to the national and announced that they will be building an Obama Center in Chicago.
Presidential foundations may seem like a common-sense idea. After all, there’s no higher office to seek–if an ex-President wants to continue to wield power and shape global affairs, a foundation can be an easy path to doing so. The Clinton Foundation came into the spotlight last year as Hillary Clinton was accused of providing access to State Department officials for donors to the Foundation. The Foundation is also known for promoting global health initiatives and fighting climate change.
Less controversially, former First Lady Laura Bush has established a foundation to promote literacy and reading. The Carter Center has been famously active in fighting the Guinea worm and other diseases and parasites.
Over the course of the last year, Obama has hinted several times at what some of his post-election priorities will be. He has indicated that he intends to help rebuild the Democratic party, which has suffered losses at the local, state, and national level over the course of his presidency. According to Obama, he will join forces with his former attorney general, Eric Holder, to fight gerrymandering in an attempt to make it easier for Democrats to be elected. However, this task force, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, is separate from the Obama Foundation.
What is the Obama Foundation?
The Obama Foundation has several projects on the table in the immediate future. According to their website, the Foundation will “carry on the great, unfinished project of renewal and global progress.” In the near future, the Obamas plan to build an Obama presidential library and museum. Although the center itself will be based in Chicago, President Obama says in the announcement video that it will “have projects all over the city, the country, and the world.” He also describes the center as a “living, working center for citizenship.”
The exact nature of the programs that the center will carry out still remain unclear. In their video and on their website, Barack and Michelle Obama ask interested visitors to submit suggestions for projects for the Obama Foundation. Michelle Obama asks for citizens to send in their “ideas, [their] hopes; [their] beliefs about what we can achieve together.”
We may have to wait some time to find out more about what the Obamas have planned. After Trump’s inauguration, the former first family left DC for a vacation, and have said they may be less present online in the coming days. However, the announcement of their foundation, coming just before Trump took the oath of office, is an indicator that the Obamas plan to continue to play a role in US politics during their post-White House lives. It remains to be seen exactly what that role will look like, but if other post-Presidential careers are any indicator, we can expect to be seeing a lot of Michelle and Barack for many years to come.
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