Former President Barack Obama gave a keynote speech on one of his signature presidential issues, climate change, at the Seeds and Chips Global Food Innovation Summit in Milan … but there was also time for anecdotes about life after the White House.
“I’m actually enjoying being in my own house. I have been fighting Michelle to get more closet space,” Obama said on Tuesday. “I have been trying to figure out how the coffee maker works.”
Most of his time, however, has been spent writing his third book and “building our next phase of work, which will involve what we’re calling the Obama Presidential Center. Our goal is to set up the premiere institution in the United States but also to work with other countries to train the next generation of leadership for activism.”
The Obamas’ 9-bedroom mansion with 8.5 baths in the Kalorama neighborhood boasts plenty of suburban charm and even a few historical touches (not to mention less traffic).
Built in 1928, the single-family home was first listed in a newspaper ad for an estimated cost of $50,000, according to the website Ghosts of DC. Although that may sound like a steal compared to its recent price tag — the last sale was to former White House press secretary Joe Lockhart for $5,295,000 — it was most likely an impressive purchase at the time for Charles Maddox, a U.S. Navy captain who resided in the mansion for three decades.
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Obama also spoke on Tuesday about the particular struggles of being the president of the United States, even after the position ends.
“The hardest thing about being the president of the United States is it is unique in its isolation,” he said. “The burdens of leadership are true in any country but in part because of the security apparatus around a U.S. president, you live in what’s called ‘the bubble.’ And it is a very nice prison.”
Obama said he was happy to have a little more freedom now.
“Now I’m only captive to selfies, which is almost as bad,” he joked. “I can walk anywhere as long as I’m willing to take a selfie every two steps.”
The former president touched down in Milan on Monday, kicking off a two-day trip in which he also met with former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Obama also fit in some sightseeing on Monday, touring the Milan Cathedral and visiting the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, an Ambrosian art gallery within a historic library.
The visit comes after Obama accepted the 2017 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award in Boston on Sunday and gave a speech urging Senate Republicans to “do what they believe deep in their hearts is right” and save the Affordable Care Act.