It was a typical morning at one Chicago high school until former President Barack Obama made a surprise virtual visit during a Zoom call to say hello and share the news that “all” high school students in the Chicago Public Schools will receive free digital access to “A Promised Land.”
The 768-page memoir, released on Nov. 17 just two weeks after Election Day, shares Obama's journey into politics, his 2008 election campaign, his first term in the Oval Office, and delves into some of the important issues he navigated during his two-terms in office including, the war in Afghanistan, healthcare and immigration.
Over the virtual assembly that also included Dr. Janice Jackson, CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Obama told the eager listeners that he had young people in mind when he was writing A Promised Land, in the hope it would help them understand their ability to have an impact on the world, Newsweek reported.
"I want young people to understand that the ability for you to have an impact in this world, to make a difference, to improve communities, to improve schools, to make it possible for people to get healthcare, to create better jobs, to clean up our environment," he said. ”You have that power in you.”
Obama has a long history with Chicago. In 1985, Chicago became his home after he moved there after graduating from Columbia University. It was the place where he met his wife, Michelle Obama and launched his political career. He told the students that being in Chicago taught him about “his own voice and his own power and what he could do to make a difference.”
The city is so important to him that he is moving forward on plans to develop a sprawling campus in Jackson Park on the South Side for the Obama Presidential Center, where his presidential library and nonprofit foundation would be headquartered, the Chicago Tribune reported.
CPS is the third-largest school district in the U.S. that serves 341,000 students in 638 schools. The school district said the books will be available in e-book and audiobook formats in both English and Spanish through the school system’s online library.
“It’s a chance for students “to have access to that without having to pay,” Obama said.
During his talk, he told the students how "proud" he was of them as they continued to focus on their education despite the "tough" circumstances of the pandemic.
“High school I know is challenging because there’s a lot of stuff going on,” Obama said. “To then have to do that with COVID, and some of you probably your families have been economically stressed, stressed from a health perspective ... that’s tough.”
"The fact that all of you are continuing to pursue knowledge, get your assignments done, going above and beyond - and I'm hopeful that some of you are planning in some fashion if you're seniors to be continuing your education down the road - that's something that I could not be prouder of," the news magazine reported.
"So way to go. Thumbs-up. And Michelle sends her love and is proud of you as well."
In fact, it wouldn't be the last time the students would be seeing the former president, Obama said he plans to follow-up with students about his memoir after they had had the chance to read it.
CPS confirmed in its statement that it will hold the live-streamed event for all students and teachers in early 2021, and it will be moderated by ABC7 Windy City LIVE's Val Warner, Newsweek reported.
The book sold nearly 890,000 copies in the U.S. and Canada in its first 24 hours. And, is the first of two volumes the former Democratic president plans to release.