Earlier this week, President Obama visited the University of Chicago and delivered the first public remarks of his post-presidency. His comments covered a range of topics, including his plans for the next phase of his life. Going forward, he explained, his highest priority is help “prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and take their own crack at changing the world.”
Part of his task is to persuade young people that the country’s problems, though serious and daunting, “are not insoluble.” Moreover, he added, many young people are very concerned about a wide range of issues but “feel as if their involvement would not make a difference, it’s not worth their time…They are discouraged but feel disempowered.”
Our experience working with students of all ages confirms their deep concern about so many issues: poverty, violence, education, civil rights, climate change, and more. And our evaluation of SLP’s impact has shown that, when given a real opportunity to make their voices heard in their schools and neighborhoods, young people are significantly more optimistic about their ability to have an impact: they feel more comfortable sharing their ideas for change, they see themselves as leaders, and they feel a drive and a responsibility to solve social problems.