Former president Barack Obama loves selfies — of himself. He once took perhaps the most ill-timed selfie, posing with two foreign leaders at the funeral of South African icon Nelson Mandela (beaming from ear to ear). Michelle wasn’t too happy.
But now that he’s out of office, no more selfies — especially not for those pesky ordinary folk.
“It may seem trivial, but it’s not,” Obama said about his dislike of selfies, USA Today reported. “I say this because … one of the weird things about becoming president is I found that people were no longer looking me in the eye and shaking my hand.”
So he banned them as he launched the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit this week. The gathering was intended to bring together artists, entrepreneurs, foreign leaders — and even some royalty — to meet with young up-and-coming leaders. You know, the kind that love to take selfies.
“Our goal is not to present some fixed theory of how change happens,” Obama said at the opening of the summit. “Our goal is not … to pump you with a whole bunch of power point data and a blueprint for how you are going to go back and do the stuff you’re already doing even better. Because, in many ways, we want to learn from you as much as we want to share what we’ve learned.”
Held at the Marriott Marquis in Chicago, the gathering had a new-age, touchy-feely vibe, Politico reports.
There was a morning meditation and yoga session, and an evening community concert with Chance the Rapper and The National. And in between breakout sessions with titles like “The Adventure of Civility” and “Who Narrates the World?,” people took pastel-colored chalk and filled out a blackboard customized with “I hope _______.” (Samples: “we speak better and listen,” “Americans will see each other,” “my nephews can escape toxic masculinity”).
“Therapeutic,” said one attendee. “The sanity bubble,” said another. An alternate reality, all the attendees at the kickoff of Obama’s new foundation acknowledged, some with nervous snickers, some with big, relieved belly laughs. …
Obama spent two feel-good but amorphous days making pop-in appearances at sessions and watching with bemusement, first as people didn’t realize he was in the room, then at the wave of squeals and applause that swept over as they realized he was there. José Andres was at the hotel bar. Prince Harry was on stage, in jeans.
“Is there space among the woke for the still-waking?” author Anand Giridharadas asked in a New Agey opening speech that touched on the “magic” of connectivity and the “starfish illusion.”
And in closing the event, Obama said a lot of people misunderstood his 2008 campaign’s motto, “Hope and Change.”
“Hope does not mean that tomorrow everything’s going to be better,” he said. “Where hope comes in handy is when you’ve put everything you have into something and it hasn’t worked yet —and it hasn’t worked the week after that, and the week after that, and six months later and a year.”
Well, Obama did that for eight years and it never did come together.
Maybe that’s why he doesn’t want any more selfies.