By Frederick H. Lowe
After weeks of speculative newspaper articles and rumors, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made it official on Tuesday, announcing that the Barack Obama Presidential Center will be located on Chicago’s South Side, where the president worked as a community organizer and was first elected to office.
The presidential center, which will include a library, museum, office and activity space for the Barack Obama Foundation, will be located either in Washington Park or Jackson Park.
The library is scheduled to open in 2020 or 2021.
In the coming months, the foundation will enter into an agreement with the City of Chicago to develop the center. The University of Chicago has pledged to make resources an infrastructure available to the foundation in the near term for its planning and development work. President Obama, a Harvard Law School graduate, taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School. He was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review.
“With a library and a foundation on the South Side of Chicago, not only will encourage and affect change locally … [it]can also do is attract the world to Chicago,” President Obama said. “All of the strands of my life came together and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago. That’s where I was able to apply that early idealism to try to work in communities in public service. That’s where I met my wife. That’s where my children were born.”
First Lady Michelle Obama said, “I’m thrilled to be able to put this resource in the heart of the neighborhood that means the world to me. Every value, every memory, every important relationship to me exists in Chicago. I consider myself a South Sider.”
The South Side was selected because of its access to transportation, economic development opportunities, community interest and potential for academic collaboration.
The foundation, however, will maintain a presence at Columbia University in New York City, where President Obama was awarded his undergraduate degree.
The foundation also will maintain a relationship with the State of Hawaii, where he grew up.