White House archives.

September 13, 2017; Chicago Tribune

The Obama Foundation has announced it will commence its programming with a summit aimed at promoting active citizenship among students and young adults, along with one-day trainings.

“We’re bringing together hundreds of leaders from all around the world for a hands-on exchange of ideas in my hometown,” Obama says about the summit in the video above, posted on the foundation’s website. “The summit will be a place to gather and learn from one another, and then go back to your communities to lead others in the hard work of change. And it will also help guide our foundation as we continue to design programs that will connect and support the next generation of young leaders here in the United States and around the globe.”

The former president says he wants the center to focus on the work of grassroots organizing, which happens one block and one neighborhood at a time.

The Foundation’s CEO, David Simas, said, “We’re going to be focusing like a laser beam on this idea of active citizenship, to give people, organizations and communities the skills and the tools that they need to actively engage in positive change. Change doesn’t happen when someone from above says this is going to happen—it’s bottom up….Everything we do is about a person saying, ‘How can I move my community forward, how can I engage in positive and lasting change?’”

Honey to our ears and maybe to some of yours? There are spots available for young activists.

We’re inviting people from around the world to attend the Summit, but we’re saving a handful of spots for applicants through Obama.org. We’re inviting incredible young leaders who are passionate about social change and civic engagement to apply to attend. The ideal candidate is active in their community, and will bring a unique perspective to share with other attendees. No matter if you’re from a rural town or a big city, we want to hear about the positive impact you’re having in your community, and why you should join us in Chicago.

The foundation starts a series of training days on October 14th for young people ages 18 to 24, and that first national summit is scheduled for October 31st and November 1st. To apply, scroll to the bottom of the page at www.obama.org/summit/.

On top of the summit and the trainings, around 20 Obama Foundation fellowships are to be awarded to organizers in February, and the group will be brought together quarterly to network and exchange wisdom. They will be able to use the foundation’s name and resources to amplify their individual work. And, as we reported last week, the newly included My Brother’s Keeper will continue to focus on building mentoring relationships for African American boys.

Is this any way to build a presidential legacy? “In the past, [you’d] build the facilities and then figure out what the programming will be,” Simas said. “The Obamas have a clear vision informed by the input of thousands and thousands of people of what it will look like. But essentially, the facilities are in service of the vision, not vice versa. This is why the president and first lady want to begin programming right off the bat, rather than wait.”—Ruth McCambridge