After much delay, construction will soon begin in Chicago for the presidential library dedicated to the history of our 44th president, Barack Obama.
Dan Merica of CNN reported that “former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama will oversee the groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center next week.”
Chicago will always be an important place to @MichelleObama and me, which is why we're excited to celebrate the virtual groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago next week. It’s been a long time coming, and we can't wait to see this project come to life. https://t.co/1aturVB3yn
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) September 24, 2021
According to Merica, “the Obamas, joined by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will attend a small ceremony to mark the groundbreaking on the presidential library on Tuesday in the Jackson Park neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The event will be livestreamed.”
In the video announcing the groundbreaking ceremony, President Obama said, “Michelle and I could not be more excited to break ground on the Obama Presidential Center in the community that we love.”
According to a spokesperson, Obama will be joined by friends and alumni from both of his successful presidential campaigns, as well as his eight years in the White House on the evening before the official groundbreaking for a livestreamed conversation hosted by his former campaign manager David Plouffe, and longtime advisor Valerie Jarrett.
“We have worked with people who care about this place as much as we do, harnessing the collective talent of the South Side. Together, we put the voices of this community at the heart of our project,” Obama said in the video. “The result is more than a look into the past; it is a vision for the future.”
“This project has reminded us why the South Side and the people who live here are so special,” Michelle said, echoing Barack’s sentiments. “It has reaffirmed what Barack and I always believed that the future here is as bright as it is anywhere.”
Obama was reportedly torn between basing the library in Chicago and his birthplace of Honolulu, Hawaii, but ultimately chose the South Side because of its overall significance in his life.
“It’s the place where all the strands of my life came together,” he said in a 2015 video announcing his selection of the location.
In addition to being where he first met Michelle and where the couple fell in love, Chicago’s South Side was where Obama began his political career, starting with him becoming a community organizer and culminating in his 2008 presidential victory to become the nation’s first Black President.
“The people [here], the community, the lessons that I learned — they’re all based right in this few square miles where we’ll now be able to give something back and bring the world back home after this incredible journey,” he remarked at the time.
“The project will be more than just a museum and presidential library,” Merica added. “The Obama Foundation will be headquartered from the site, as well as a public meeting space, an athletic center and a branch of the Chicago Public Library.”
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley, one of the lead consultants working on Obama’s presidential library, told CNN that the delay to get the project moving was due to “the amount of meticulousness that has gone into the architecture of the building and the grounds.”
“Their only real marching order was they didn’t want this to be a monument to themselves,” he said of Barack and Michelle’s hopes for the library. “That idea is to have some optimism in American history while also paying great homage to grassroots activism and how change occurs from the bottom up.”