Barack Obama dazzled on Wednesday night in one of his first public speaking events since the end of his term. The 44th American president spoke at the Streicker Center at Temple Emanu-El in New York City’s Upper East Side. The crowd who filled the historic synagogue saw a recent president who was relaxed, glowing (seriously, does he use La Mer?) and full of words of wisdom.
What kind of advice does Obama have for his children, Malia and Sasha, as they exit the White House and make for adulthood? “Be kind, be useful, be a little fearless,” he told the crowd at the Streicker Center. These, he said, are the words by which he and Michelle Obama raise their daughters, and the parting advice he gave to every member of the audience.
In front of a pair of blazing menorahs and a sea of quivering smartphones, the former world leader spoke about his relationship to Israel. “To be a true friend of Israel it is important to be honest about it, and the politics of this country sometimes do not allow for it,” he said, according to attendees on social media. Calling situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip “unsustainable” if Israel is to continue as a democracy, the former president received massive applause.
Obama, who said that he does not miss the glamour of being in office but is “very active behind the scenes on issues” that matter to him, shared with the crowd that he used to joke with his staff: “I’m basically a liberal Jew.”
Jenny Singer is a writer for the Forward. You can reach her at Singer@forward.com or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny