Barack Obama: Post-Presidency

January 20, 2017 – present

Barack Obama left office with a 58% approval rating in January 2017.1 He remained in Washington D.C. so his youngest daughter could finish high school.2

A. The Obama Presidential Center

On September 28, 2021, Barack and Michelle Obama, alongside Mayor Lightfoot and Governor Pritzker, broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park, on the south side of Chicago, Illinois.3 The Center, due to open in 2025, will house a museum, a new branch of the Chicago Public Library, meeting spaces and community rooms, and an activity center, gardens, play areas and lawns.4 5

Constructed by the Obama Foundation, the Obama Presidential Center is a privately operated, non-federal organization that is separate to the Barack Obama Presidential Library (which is administered by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)). The Obama Presidential Center will receive loans of records and artifacts from NARA.6

The Barack Obama Presidential Library is the first fully digital presidential library with the original records and artifacts (over 35,000 pieces) documented, interpreted, stored and preserved at an existing NARA facility.7 It opened for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) research requests on January 20, 2022.8

B. On the Campaign Trail

In 2018, Obama gave a speech at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign criticizing Trump and his policies for the first time, before returning to the campaign trail in support of Democratic candidates in California and Ohio in the run up to the 2018 midterm elections.9 10 The Obamas endorsed almost 100 Democratic candidates nationwide prior to the 2018 Midterms.11   

In 2020, Obama spoke at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in support of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’ bid for the presidency and followed this up on the campaign trail with speeches in Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania.12 13 14 15 16

During the 2022 midterm elections, Obama supported Democratic candidates at events and rallies in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Georgia as well as appearing in campaign ads and on TV shows such as Eli and Peyton Manning’s Monday Night Football “Manningcast.”17 18 19 

C. Speeches

Media reports indicate that, post-presidency, Obama has undertaken work on the paid speakers circuit, delivering speeches to financial services firms on Wall Street, at business and marketing conferences, and at other private events, netting between $400,000 and $600,000 per speech. While facing criticism by some for making money in this way, Obama’s spokesperson maintains that by doing so, Obama can continue to make considerable charitable donations, including $2 million to children’s charities in 2017 alone. One report states that between leaving office in January 2017 and June 2019, Obama gave an estimated 100 speeches to corporate audiences.20 21

Obama’s speeches are not limited to these corporate audiences. For example, he gave his first speech 100 days after leaving office at the University of Chicago, where he spoke to young leaders about community organizing and civic engagement.22 In November 2021, he gave a speech at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, UK, where he noted that he “wasn’t real happy about” Trump withdrawing from the Paris Agreement.23 And in April 2022, he gave a keynote address at a one-day symposium at Stanford University on tackling disinformation online.24

D. Charity Work

The Obama Foundation was founded in 2014 with the initial task of “planning the development of a Presidential Library that reflects President Obama’s values and priorities throughout his career in public service.”25 With their mission “to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world,” the Foundation (as of November 2022) has six main projects in addition to the construction of the Obama Presidential Center: the Leaders Program, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the Fellowship Program, the Scholars Program, the Girls Opportunity Alliance, and the Voyager Scholarship.26 27 Since 2019, the Obamas have donated over $1 million to the Foundation. Michelle Obama also donated $500,000 from the proceeds of the sale of her book (“Becoming”) specifically to the Girls Opportunity Alliance program.28 The Foundation also offers guidance on how to help during times of need providing links to local organizations working in recovery efforts after natural disasters.29 

The Obamas continue their philanthropic work with their support of Fisher House, “an organization that provides free housing to military and veteran families visiting loved ones recovering at military and VA  medical facilities,” alongside other local charities. In 2017, the Obamas “donated $2 million to the city of Chicago to help pay for youth summer jobs programs on the South Side.”28 Also in 2017, five former presidents, including Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush, “joined together to issue the ‘One America Appeal’ to ask their fellow citizens and friends around the world to support the staggering recovery needs from Hurricane Harvey.”30 The fund was extended to cover recovery efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and distributed $41.3 million to communities in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The fund stopped receiving donations in January 2018.31

In 2018, Obama volunteered at the Greater Chicago Depositary where he helped to prepare thanksgiving food for people in need.32 In 2019, Obama tweeted a photograph of himself delivering cookies to Fisher House families.33 34

E. Books, Podcasts, TV

In 2017, the Obamas signed a joint $65 million publishing deal to write their memoirs.2 “Becoming” by Michelle Obama was published in 2018 and has sold over 17 million copies.35 It was accompanied by a book tour and a Netflix documentary.36 “A Promised Land” by Barack Obama was published in 2020 and sold over 3.3 million copies in its first month of release.37 The audiobook editions of “Becoming” and “A Promised Land” are read by the authors.38

In 2018, the Obamas founded Higher Ground, a production company. Through this company, they signed multi-year deals to produce content for Netflix and Spotify that include documentaries, children’s programs and podcasts.39 40 In 2022, they left Spotify and signed with Audible.41 In 2021, Barack Obama hosted a podcast alongside Bruce Springsteen, and in 2022, won an Emmy Award for his narration of the documentary series “Our Great National Parks.” Their first documentary release “American Factory” won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards in 2020.42 43 44   

F. Threats

Despite settling into post-presidential life, Obama has continued to receive threats against him. For example, in March 2019, a federal jury found a Syracuse man guilty of threatening to kill Obama. He was sentenced to 46 months imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised probation.45 In August 2019, a Florida man was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment by a federal judge after he pleaded guilty to mailing pipe bombs to “prominent Democrats and media figures seen as critical of President Trump” including Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.46 In November 2022, construction was halted at the Obama Presidential Center for about a week after a noose was found onsite. The Obama Foundation “called the incident a ‘shameless act of cowardice and hate.’”5 47 

G. Reflection

In a 2022 interview with Al Roker to discuss his new documentary on the world’s national parks, Obama reflected on his post-presidential life, saying, “Well, there’s nothing that compares to the privilege and honor of serving the American people in the highest office of the land. And there are times where I miss the work. … I don’t miss the hoopla though. I don’t miss the confinement. And we’re finding that we can be really productive, contributing citizens in all kinds of other ways. My work and Michelle’s work with the foundation. We’re training a whole new set of leaders all around the world and here in the United States who are interested in figuring out how do we solve big problems like climate change. Our ability to do projects like this one, with the great national parks. … So there are a lot of fun things that we’re able to do, but things that I think are meaningful as well and I hope we are able to continue to do.”48


  1. Gallup, “President Obama Leaves White House With 58% Favorable Rating,”, January 16, 2017, []
  2. Britannica, “Life After the Presidency of Barack Obama,”, accessed November 18, 2022, [] []
  3. The Obama Foundation, “Breaking Ground on the Obama Presidential Center,”, accessed November 17, 2022, []
  4. The Obama Foundation, “The Obama Presidential Center,”, accessed November 17, 2022, []
  5., “Construction Halted at Obama Center After Noose Found,”, November 11, 2022, [] []
  6. Barack Obama Presidential Library, “About the Library,”, accessed November 17, 2022, []
  7. Barack Obama Presidential Library, “Artifacts,”, accessed November 17, 2022, []
  8. Barack Obama Presidential Library, “Research Frequently Asked Questions,”, accessed December 6, 2022, []
  9. Alex Seitz-Wald, “Obama Slams ‘Crazy Stuff’ Coming Out of Trump White House, Hits Politicizing of Justice Department,”, September 7, 2018, []
  10. Mark Niquette, “Obama Takes on Trump, Diving Into Campaign for Democrats,”, September 5, 2018, []
  11. Alex Seitz-Wald, “Barack and Michelle Obama Endorse Nearly 100 Midterm Candidates,”, August 1, 2018, []
  12. Barack Obama via, “Transcript: Barack Obama’s DNC Speech,”, August 20, 2020, []
  13. Joe Biden and Barack Obama via, “Joe Biden & Barack Obama Campaign Event Speech Transcript Flint, MI October 31, 2020,”, October 31, 2020, []
  14. Barack Obama via, “Barack Obama Drive-In Rally Speech for Joe Biden Transcript, Atlanta, GA November 2,”, November 2, 2020, []
  15. Barack Obama via, “Barack Obama Campaign Speech for Joe Biden Transcript Miami, FL November 2,”, November 2, 2020, []
  16. Barack Obama via, “READ: Barack Obama’s Scathing Campaign Speech,”, October 22, 2020, []
  17. Barack Obama via,,,,, []
  18. Dan Merica, “Obama Readies for the Campaign Trail by Hitting the Airwaves Across Country,”, October 21, 2022, []
  19., “Barack Obama Joins Eli, Peyton, on ‘Manningcast’ … Manning’s ‘Dream Guest,’”, October 24, 2022, []
  20. Andrew Buncombe, “Barack Obama to Make $1.2m From Three Wall Street Speeches,”, September 18, 2017, []
  21. Trevon Austin, “Obama Paid $600,000 for a Single Speech,”, June 20, 2019, []
  22. Erica Gonzales, “Watch Barack Obama Talk to Young Leaders in His First Speech Post-Presidency,”, April 24, 2017, []
  23. Barack Obama via, “Barack Obama COP26 Climate Speech Transcript,”, November 8, 2021, []
  24. Melissa De Witte, et al., “‘Regulation Has to Be Part of the Answer’ to Combatting Online Disinformation, Barack Obama Said at Stanford Event,”, April 21, 2022, []
  25. The Obama Foundation, “Supporters Establish the Obama Foundation to Oversee Planning for Future Presidential Library,”, accessed November 18, 2022, []
  26. The Obama Foundation, “Our Mission,”, accessed November 17, 2022, []
  27. Guidestar, “The Barack Obama Foundation,”, accessed November 17, 2022, []
  28. Lolly Bowean, “Obamas Donated More Than $1 Million to Obama Foundation for Namesake Presidential Center; Retired NBA Star Charles Barkley Also Gives Contribution,”, January 15, 2020, [] []
  29. See for example, The Obama Foundation, “Hurricane Ian Relief: How You Can Help,” and “Take Action to Help Those Affected by Hurricane Fiona,”, accessed November 18 2022, and []
  30. The Carter Center, “Former US Presidents Launch ‘One America Appeal’ to Help Hurricane Victims,”, September 7, 2017, []
  31. One America Appeal, “One America Appeal Concludes Fundraising with Over $41 million,”, January 24, 2018, []
  32. Ramsey Touchberry, “Barack Obama Volunteers at Food Bank for Thanksgiving While Donald Trump Plays Golf in Florida,”, November 21, 2018, []
  33. Barack Obama via, []
  34. Brandon Millett, “The Giving Legacies of Four Modern-Day Presidents,”, February 16, 2022, []
  35. Elizabet A. Harris, “Michelle Obama Will Publish a New Book This Fall,”, July 21, 2022, []
  36. Nancy Coleman, “Michelle Obama’s Book ‘Becoming’ to Be a Netflix Documentary,”, April 27, 2020, []
  37. Penguin Random House, “A Promised Land by Barack Obama Sells More Than 3.3 Million Units in US and Canada in Its First Month of Publication,”, December 17, 2020, []
  38., “Becoming,” and “A Promised Land,”, accessed November 18, 2022, and []
  39. Higher Ground, “Homepage,”, accessed November 18, 2022, []
  40. Netflix, “Netflix Forming Storytelling Partnership with Barack and Michelle Obama,”, May 21, 2018, []
  41. Ashley Carmen and Bloomberg, “Barack and Michelle Obama Sign Audio Deal With Amazon After Relationship With Spotify Sours,”, June 21 2022, []
  42. Higher Ground, “Renegades: Born in the USA,”, February 2021, []
  43. Lauren Hubbard, “Barack Obama Wins an Emmy for Our Great National Parks,”, September 6, 2022, []
  44. Sarah Whitten, “‘American Factory,’ Documentary Backed by Obamas’ Production Company, Wins Oscar,”, February 10, 2020, []
  45. United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of New York, “Syracuse Man Sentenced to 46 Months for Threats Against Public Officials,”, April 30, 2019, []
  46. Richard Gonzales, “Florida Man Who Mailed Bombs to Democrats, Media Gets 20 Years in Prison,”, August 5, 2019, []
  47. Sun-Times Media Wire, “Construction on President Obama Center Resumes Days After Noose Found on Site,”, November 17, 2022, []
  48. Barack Obama via, “President Obama Discusses Life Post-Presidency and His Lifelong Passion for National Parks Transcript,”, April 18, 2022, []