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Obama returns to public eye, with a soft landing

The former US president did not comment on his successor Donald Trump but joked about Patels with a student of Indian descent at a University of Chicago panel discussion.

world Updated: Apr 25, 2017 00:45 IST
Yashwant Raj
Barack Obama

Former US president Barack Obama (centre) at a discussion at the University of Chicago on Monday. Harish Patel, a student of Indian descent, is seated at the extreme right.(Agencies)

Former US President Barack Obama returned to public life on Monday, speaking at an interactive panel discussion with young people at the University of Chicago with a politically loaded question: “So what's been going on while I was gone?”

A lot has happened since. But the former president left that question unanswered. And did not comment on President Trump at all, on his actions and remarks, as his aides had said he won’t, at a much anticipated first public appearance and remarks after leaving office.

Obama looked relaxed and rested after a vacation with family and friends and seemed ready for a new role. “What’s the most important thing I can do for my next job?... Prepare the next generation of leadership to pick up the baton.”

The panel comprised students, one of whom, Harish Patel, was of Indian descent who said he had come to the US with his parents when he was 14. To him Obama said, jokingly, at one point: “There are more Patels in India than Obamas.”

Obama visited India twice as president — a record for a US president — once each during the tenures of Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi. He was the first US president to attend the Republic Day parade, in 2015.