Reuters former U.S. President Barack Obama holds a T-shirt featuring a picture of his daughters Malia (R) and Sasha while on the campaign trail for California gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom during a campaign stop in Bakersfield, California, United States, October 5, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake
Barack Obama announced Tuesday that he’ll host a long-expected podcast, billed as “the ultimate clubhouse conversation” for left-leaning Washington and global elites and athletes, celebrities and journalists.
The former president will travel the country in the coming months to offer rare insights and advice to the public. The goal is to talk to people about serious issues of our time, and how “we can find common ground by talking about issues instead of simply debating them,” Obama said.
Most of his conversations will be non-political, the White House said, but some will center on policy, and “there will be some political context.”
Included in the lineup: celebrities Chris Rock, Amy Schumer, George Clooney, Colin Powell, Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie, Susan Sarandon, Morgan Freeman, and Bill Cosby, as well as writers Ta-Nehisi Coates, Derek Thompson, Ed O’Keefe, Eleanor Clift, Daniel Inouye, and The New Yorker’s Leon Wieseltier.
Obama said his guest list is “not chock full of typical guests” who often inspire rich gossip.
“My goal is to talk to people who are currently doing remarkable work, doing important work, across a range of topics with interesting people,” he said in a statement provided by the White House. “There are going to be newsmakers in this mix. And even though these are not typically public folks who get a lot of attention, I just have a basic belief that people who are doing cool stuff should also have a platform to share their insights with one another.”
The site (www.obama.net) will include episodes hosted by Obama, including about national security, working in Washington, and the lessons he’s drawn from the Oval Office.
Obama is also recording episodes at the White House with, he said, “folks who care passionately about issues but haven’t spent a lot of time with one another.”
“That’s why I was so excited to talk with longtime friends from Chicago about the culture of their city, the law that bears their names, and their work since leaving,” he said.
Obama said he has approached this podcast project differently than he did the popular “Between Two Ferns,” hosted by comedian Zach Galifianakis. Those interviews were more lighthearted.
“Not only do I intend to talk to folks in-depth, I intend to talk to folks who care passionately about issues but haven’t spent a lot of time with one another,” he said. “I’m hoping we can bridge the gap between those seeking power and those deeply concerned about social justice.”
The podcast will start with the first season’s guests, with more details and then more subscribers.
Obama’s podcast is the latest example of a former president using his profile to circumvent Washington’s partisan divide and cross over into new territory. He’s also developing a digital academy to train citizens to become civic leaders.