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WATCH President Obama’s First Public Speech Since He Left Office VIDEO

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Watch Barack Obama first formal public appearance since leaving the White House, he said Monday that partisanship and special interests have poisoned the political process and hindered the search for solutions to the nation’s most pressing problems.

Speaking inside a University of Chicago auditorium to about 400 people, the former president said that the focus of his life outside of office will be the kind of work he did before entering politics, fostering leadership and grassroots engagement.

“The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way I can to prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton,” Obama told the audience. While the nation confronts serious challenges including income inequality and inner city violence, he said they are all solvable.

The Chicago event is the first in a series of public appearances that Obama, 55, will make in the coming months. On May 7, he’s scheduled to accept the Profile in Courage Award in Boston from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.

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