fter many months out of the political spotlight, Barack Obama has recently made a series of high-profile speeches. His first was a eulogy delivered at John McCain’s funeralin Washington D.C. The former president had been handpicked by Senator McCain to speak at the funeral—along with the 42nd president, George W. Bush—and used it as an opportunity to speak out against the rancor of the current political environment.
Though Donald Trump was never mentioned by name, his presence was certainly felt. John McCain, said Obama, “did understand that some principles transcend politics. Some values transcend party. He considered it part of his duty to uphold those principles and uphold those values.”
National Cathedral Hosts Memorial Service For Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
BARACK OBAMA DELIVERS A EULOGY AT JOHN MCCAIN’S FUNERAL IN THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL.
GETTY IMAGESMARK WILSON
Obama’s words were much more pointed a week later, when he delivered a far more blistering indictment of the current president before an audience of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination,” Obama said. “And we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up clearly and unequivocally to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be, saying that Nazis are bad?”
His appearance in Illinois was part of a series of speeches he will give in the coming months in support of Democratic candidates in the lead-up to the mid-term elections. In a moment of levity last Saturday, he spoke at a rally for seven congressional candidates and shared that when he was in college, he had been kicked out of Disneyland for smoking on a ride.
The speeches were a break from the far more low-key role Obama has played in his post-presidential life. He caused a stir of a very different kind, for example, when he reunited with his vice president, Joe Biden, for lunch at a bakery in Georgetown in July.
The duo made a surprise visit to Dog Tag Bakery, a non-profit organization focused on teaching veterans, military spouses, and caregivers about business.
Dog Tag Bakery chief executive Meghan Ogilvie told the Washington Post that Obama and Biden met all of the non-profits 13 fellows: “They shook every fellow’s hand, hugged them and listened to their stories. It was just a phenomenal scene.”
The duo, who were dressed down in khakis and button-down shirts, ordered ham-and-cheese sandwiches (“Joe’s paying,” Obama joked) and sat down alone to eat them for about 10 minutes. Afterward, they greeted a crowd that had amassed outside the bakery and posed for photos.
Barack Obama and Joe Biden made a surprise visit to a DC bakery.
“We were absolutely stunned to see them!” Lolly Rivas of Dog Tag Bakery says. Their order? Ham and gruyere on shallot-jam ciabatta, a slice of mint-basil blueberry cake, brownies and coffee, Rivas says.
4:33 AM – Jul 31, 2018
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Obama had recently returned from a trip to South Africa during which he had delivered his most important speech since leaving the White House. In his 90-minute address at at the annual Nelson Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg on July 17, Obama condemned “strongman politics.”
“Look around,” Obama said, without mentioning world leaders (including his successor, President Donald Trump) by name. “Strongman politics are ascendant suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, but those in power seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.” (Here’s the full transcript)
Before the speech, the ex-president’s advisor and former speechwriter Benjamin J. Rhodes told the New York Times that the address would “set the tone for Obama’s post-presidency.”
“It gives him an opportunity to lift up a message of tolerance, inclusivity and democracy at a time when there are obviously challenges to Mandela’s legacy around the world,” Rhodes said. “Mandela endured far darker times than anything we’re enduring today.”
FORMER PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SPEAKS DURING THE 2018 NELSON MANDELA ANNUAL LECTURE IN JOHANNESBURG ON JULY 17, 2018.
GETTY IMAGESMARCO LONGARI
The Obama Foundation also gathered 200 young African leaders in Johannesburg in advance of the former president’s address to “study and debate Mandela’s legacy and leadership attributes,” South African news site the Citizen reported.
Barack and Michelle Obama have been developing a much broader portfolio of projects since leaving the White House. Last May, they inked a deal with Netflix to produce a set of films and series for the streaming service.
President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama have entered into a multi-year agreement to produce films and series for Netflix, potentially including scripted series, unscripted series, docu-series, documentaries, and features.
9:45 PM – May 21, 2018
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The couple will “have hands-on involvement in producing content and will appear personally in some of the shows while curating others,” a source familiar with the arrangement told Reuters.
The first programming with the Obamas’ input is expected to roll out beginning around May 2019.
“One of the simple joys of our time in public service was getting to meet so many fascinating people from all walks of life, and to help them share their experiences with a wider audience,” the former president said in a statement. “That’s why Michelle and I are so excited to partner with Netflix — we hope to cultivate and curate the talented, inspiring, creative voices who are able to promote greater empathy and understanding between peoples, and help them share their stories with the entire world.”
Television is nothing new for the former president. Obama appeared in the first episode of David Letterman’s Netflix series, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. In the episode, the former president told the host he was almost no help at all moving his eldest daughter, Malia, into her dorm room last year when she began her freshman year at Harvard. He was simply too emotional.
“I was basically useless,” Obama said. “Everyone had seen me crying and misting up for basically the previous three weeks, so Malia, who’s very thoughtful, she goes, ‘Dad, you know, I’ve got this lamp in this box, could you put the desk lamp together?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ It should have taken five minutes or three minutes, and it had one of those little tools. It only had, like, four parts, and I’m just sitting there, toiling at this thing for half an hour.”
The rest of the interview covered everything from the vacation Obama took following his departure from the White House to how he keeps his “dad moves” under control while dancing (more on that in the clip above).