An Evening with the 44th President of the United States
Program Date: November 18, 2017
President Obama’s opening remarks explored the challenges of the modern global economy, international cooperation, our biggest threats to national security, immigration, and how changing technologies affect how we consume information. He encouraged critical analysis of the news we consume and urged active citizenship and exercising our right to vote.
Following his remarks, President Obama responded to questions submitted by Forum subscribers. He reflected upon the major issues of his presidency, takeaways from the Oval Office, writing his new book, and his family.
In a first for The Forum, over 6,500 subscribers, community members and students attended this program at two venues: the Altria Theater and live via satellite at the Carpenter Theatre. The VCU Jazz Combo performed before the program and was joined by soprano soloist Anne O’Byrne for an arrangement of the national anthem by the combo’s leader Anthony Garcia.
Aaron M. Reid, a senior at Lloyd C. Bird High School, introduced President Obama with the story of how the president inspired him from a young age with the words of his Grant Park victory speech in 2008. At nine years old, Reid memorized that speech and performed it at oratory competitions. He performed an excerpt of the speech at The Forum to thunderous applause and praise from Mr. Obama himself who said Aaron “might have done that speech better than I did.”
President Barack Obama Official Bio
Few presidents have walked a more improbable path to the White House. Born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, Obama was raised with help from his grandparents, whose generosity of spirit reflected their Midwestern roots. The homespun values they instilled in him, paired with his innate sense of optimism, compelled Obama to devote his life to giving every child, regardless of his or her background, the same chance America gave him.
After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants. That experience honed his belief in the power of uniting ordinary people around a politics of purpose, in the hard work of citizenship, to bring about positive change. In law school, he became the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review, then he returned to Illinois to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago and begin a career in public service, winning seats in the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate.
On November 4, 2008, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, winning more votes than any candidate in history. He took office at a moment of crisis unlike any America had seen in decades—a nation at war, a planet in peril, the American Dream itself threatened by the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. And yet, despite all manner of political obstruction, Obama’s leadership helped rescue the economy, revitalize the American auto industry, reform the health care system to cover another twenty million Americans, and put the country on a firm course to a clean energy future — all while overseeing the longest stretch of job creation in American history.
On the world stage, Obama’s belief in America’s indispensable leadership and strong, principled diplomacy helped wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, decimate al Qaeda and eliminate the world’s most wanted terrorists, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, open up a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and unite humanity in coordinated action to combat a changing climate.
In times of great challenge and change, President Obama’s leadership ushered in a stronger economy, a more equal society, a nation more secure at home and more respected around the world. The Obama years were ones in which more people not only began to see themselves in the changing face of America, but to see America the way he always has—as the only place on Earth where so many of our stories could even be possible.
Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Barack Obama, 1995
The Audacity of Hope
Barack Obama, 2006