Like all of Obama’s public appearances since leaving the White House, the lecture in Johannesburg isn’t likely to raise his successor, President Donald Trump, by name. But the topic and setting will provide an implicit contrast to Trump and his view of US leadership around the globe.
The July 17 speech, which was announced on Monday, will be paired with a five-day gathering of young African leaders that will include workshops and training, as well as a town hall with Obama. The Obama Foundation said it had received 10,000 applications for the 200 available slots in the program.
It makes for a continuation of efforts Obama began while in office to cultivate young leaders through leadership training programs and town halls. During his last trip to Africa as President, Obama convened a meeting with young people in Nairobi to discuss social issues and leadership strategies. He held similar events in South America and Asia.
Obama has traveled extensively abroad in his post-presidency, both for leisure and to deliver speeches. He appeared alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel last summer and held a roundtable for young people in Singapore.
He’s also met with the leaders of France, China and Canada.
In events abroad and in the US, Obama has dutifully avoided direct criticism of Trump, even as the current President works to dismantle elements of his legacy.
That has included key items of foreign policy like withdrawing from the Paris climate accord or the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Trump has not yet laid out a broad vision for his foreign policy in Africa beyond applying a travel ban on certain nations and labeling others “shitholes” during a discussion on immigration with lawmakers earlier this year. He has not traveled to the continent as President.
Obama, whose father was from Kenya, visited Africa several times as President, though he never met Mandela on those trips as the anti-apartheid leader was ailing. They had met once earlier, in 2005, when Mandela was visiting the United States.
Obama has spoken and written extensively on Mandela’s influence in his life, including inspiring his early political activism. Obama flew to South Africa in 2013 to speak at Mandela’s funeral.
Joining him on Air Force One was his own predecessor, President George W. Bush, as well as Hillary Clinton — both of whom joined Obama again this weekend at another funeral, for former first lady Barbara Bush.
A photograph from that event — which also included Presidents George H.W.
Bush and Bill Clinton and first ladies Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, and Melania Trump — went viral over the weekend. President Trump didn’t attend the funeral, citing security concerns and a desire to show respect for the Bush family. Other sitting presidents have skipped the funerals of first ladies.