Barack Obama, Prince Harry kick off Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago

Wednesday, November 1, 2017
Prince Harry helps kick off Obama summit
Former President Barack Obama returned to Chicago Tuesday for the first-ever Obama Foundation Summit, a two-day event that aims to inspire a new generation of leaders.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Former President Barack Obama kicked off Tuesday afternoon the first-ever Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago, a two-day event that aims to inspire a new generation of leaders.

Barack Obama spoke Oct. 31, 2017 during the opening of the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago.

About 500 civic leaders from Chicago and around the world are participating in the summit, which is being held at the Marriott Marquis McCormick Place in Chicago's South Loop neighborhood. Obama said the summit is less about specific issues or causes, and more about sharing ideas to create lasting change.

"Our goal is not to present some fixed theory of how change happens," Obama said during the opening session. "This is a big brainstorming session."

Tuesday evening, Prince Harry and Chicago businesswoman Mellody Hobson participated in a discussion about philanthropy and youth engagement.

Prince Harry spoke extensively about the importance of giving back.

"You're immediately born with privilege and spend the rest of your life paying back that privilege," he said.

The 33-year-old royal has lived a life of service in the British military and now at the helm of a charitable foundation that aims to help veterans and vulnerable youth.

"We have to listen to the younger generation because they are the cure of some of the world's biggest problems," Prince Harry said.

Young leaders are at the heart of the Obama Foundation Global Summit.

"Ordinary people in local communities can do extra ordinary things when they're given the chance, when their voices are heard, when they come together," Obama said during his opening speech.

Michelle Obama will speak at 11:45 a.m. Wednesday. Wednesday speakers also include Dolores Huerta, who co-founded United Farm Workers, Caroline Kennedy and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Well-known installation artist Theaster Gates and musician Common are slated to talk, as well as other notables including Sheldon Smith, who started the Dovetail Project in Chicago.

Barack Obama will then close the summit at 5 p.m. before a concert at nearby Wintrust Arena, which features from artists including Chicago's own Chance the Rapper.

But ideas are the real star in this incubator for change.

"We're listening to them, and we're going to use their guidance to shape the next stage of his foundation's work<" said Mike Stratmanis, vice president of civic engagement for the Obama Foundation.

Participants, were selected from a pool of about 20,000 applicants, represent 60 countries. One out of five of the 500 participants are from Chicago, many from the South Side in neighborhoods near the future Obama Presidential Library.

"It's amazing to how people are doing great things, creating changes, and I would love to be able to collaborate with them one day," said Bryan Gunawan, of Indonesia..

"Knowing that I can connect with people who are working in Indonesia, Croatia, Italy or here in the U.S. is a way to make my work stronger," said Rokhaya Diallo, of France.

"I think people are really energized about participating in their communities," said Amanda Nguyen, of Washington, D.C.

Prince Harry and Michelle Obama made a surprise visit Oct. 31, 2017 to Hyde Park Academy on Chicago's South. They met with about 20 students for about an hour.
Obama Foundation


Prince Harry and Michelle Obama made a surprise visit Tuesday morning to Hyde Park Academy, which is about a mile from the Obama's Chicago home in the Woodlawn neighborhood, Michelle Obama's communication's director confirmed. They arrived at about 10:30 a.m. and stayed for about an hour.

They conducted a roundtable discussion with about 20 students, talking about the presidential library and what it could mean to the students and their South Side neighborhood.

"We were shocked because we didn't know they were coming," said senior Keenan Blackman.

"We talked about college stuff, like FAFSA, we talked about what we want to do after school," said senior Jasmine Simpson.


The summit also features workshops and lectures, as well as a pop-up bookstore that includes the Obama couple's favorite reads.

A giant chalkboard wall called "I Hope" invites participants can reflect on personal aspirations. And a portal station will allow participants to talk live to others around the world in places such as Times Square, Mexico City, Honduras, Milwaukee and Gaza City.

The event took nine months to plan and aims to allow people to work together and hear each other, said David Simas, CEO of the Obama Foundation.

"This emphasis on active citizenship is much more than voting, it's about your responsibility in your community to your fellow neighbors, to your city and to yourself," Simas said.

Along with a star-studded array of special guests, the summit will end with a concert that features Chicago's Chance the Rapper, Gloria Estefan, and The National. The concert, will be live-streaming on YouTube, will be at the Wintrust Arena on East Cermak Road across from the McCormick Place.

The summit is the second in a series of events created by the Obamas. The first was the foundation's Chicago Training Day, where young participants strategized to solve community problems.

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The Obama Foundation Summit runs Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago.