Obama’s Presidential Library Is Change Chicagoans Can’t Believe In


In fact, it’s not even really a ‘library’ at all.

Something fascinating is happening in Chicago.

When Barack Obama became president, the city was ebullient; he was, after all, a favorite son, and he’d promised to deliver the liberal policies beloved by Chicagoans.

But now, nearly nine years later, city residents find themselves at odds with Obama over the plans for his presidential library. In its initial bid for the right to host the library, put forth on behalf of the city, the University of Chicago offered large tracts of idyllic land in Washington Park and Jackson Park as two potential sites.

Almost immediately, the people of those parks’ districts began scratching their heads.

“Why not build it in one of the many blighted areas?” they asked. “Why are you taking a huge chunk of our parks?”

Obama’s response was essentially an ultimatum: If the library couldn’t be built in a Chicago park, he’d take it to Honolulu or New York City.

After Obama selected Chicago and the Jackson Park site, protests began to grow. Residents of the park’s district, Woodlawn, took to local government and the op-ed pages of the city’s papers to express their fear that the project would rapidly gentrify the minority-majority area, force out longtime residents, and ruin the park’s role as a community gathering place.

In May of this year, protesters began a campaign to implore the Obama Foundation, the group overseeing the library’s construction, to sign a community benefit agreement (CBA), which would commit the Foundation to setting aside jobs for residents around the library, protecting low-income housing, supporting black-owned businesses, and strengthening neighborhood schools.

The Foundation refused, and when a resident asked Obama himself to sign the agreement at a September public meeting about the library, Obama refused as well.

Powered by The issue many Chicagoans take with the library isn’t simply the absent CBA or the use of park land, but the way the Foundation has steamrolled them at every stage of the process.

And it’s hard for them to ignore the irony underpinning the whole ordeal: Obama’s stated purpose for his library is to inspire visitors and locals “to make a positive change in their communities,” yet the project has already begun to alienate the very community it’s meant to change.

It seems Obama is once again taking executive power for granted: His library will neither contain his presidential documents, which have all been digitized, nor be administered by the National Archives and Records Administration — the two elements required of a presidential library. In fact, the Obama Foundation has named it the Obama Presidential “Center,” and the only books it might contain are would come from the Chicago Public Library.

In other words, it’s not really a presidential library at all.

It is, in Obama’s words, a “gift to the community” that will spread his message. The Foundation explains this on its website by pointing out that the center itself will be a living testament to the values of Obama’s presidency.

It boasts that the center’s design takes into account the expressed views of “Chicagoans like you,” and that the Foundation will “continue to ask for and incorporate your feedback every step of the way.” When it’s finished, the center will include a community garden, a “test kitchen,” and a recording studio where visitors will be able to “create their own songs, speeches, short films, and interviews,” according to the Foundation’s website.

But neighborhood residents have said countless times that they don’t want any of that. They want their public park, their low-cost housing, and their culture. They want their elected officials to listen when they bang their fists on the table. Instead, they’re getting change they can’t believe in.

Obama’s presidential library ripped as ‘ugly waste of taxpayer resources’ by Chicagoans

Sometimes buyers remorse takes a long time… You can’t see the product flaws for a while… consumer protection laws are in place for that reason… could this be a Lemon Law case… I would say… put your worthless ‘Center’ somewhere else… like Hawaii … after all, it is his birth place… No? I mean then tourists from all around the world can decide if they want to go to the famed beaches or to a library that wasn’t…


The summary of the 8 disastrous years of Obama: he ran on gratuitous sweet-nothings, then when in office, pushed aggressively for the deceptively-named and dubious projects (i.e. the Affordable care Act) he wanted regardless of legality or “democracy”. All he wanted was to erect his own “legacy”, at the expense of the very people that elected him.


The fact that this isn’t actually an official presidential library says it all doesn’t it. Obama doesn’t want historians and librarians from the National Archives handling the operations…he has a “message” to send.


The more that Obama opens his mouth as a former president, the more his supporters will get a dose of reality about who this man really is. He doesn’t have a full WH staff and government to spin his message any more. All he has is himself and whatever shills he can afford to pay. He doesn’t care about the concerns of common people and never did. It’s all about him. But we already knew this.


But he does want free property in a great area for his monument to himself and his ego.


Hi @Claire and @Sarah … you guys don’t chime in as much as you use to… we need more female (I can call you female can’t I ?) input… Anyway Hi Ya’ll…


I’m back now. I changed jobs after 15 years at the same company. It was a big adjustment. I’ve been on vacation for the past few days and it’s nice to get back up to speed and participate!

Yes…I am a heterosexual female and have no problems with that. I also cook. :rofl: and make a mean sandwich.


You cook in this day and age?
A long lost art.

Welcome back.


Plenty of people said all the same about Bush, and plenty of others said the same about Clinton, and still plenty of others said the same of Reagan, Carter, Ford…Other than being the same kind of partisan, what’s your point.


Miss the point often???


The point you are missing is that all of those Presidents have actual Presidential libraries that are run by non-partisan professionals from NARA. They show the complete picture of the administration, warts and all. Here are the digital libraries:

Here are the physical libraries:

Obama’s center is not an official presidential library. NARA won’t be administering it. That means Obama gets to pick and choose what aspects of his legacy gets portrayed to the public.


I used to live in Austin and have been to the LBJ library many times. You can listen to all of his recorded telephone conversations where he’s trying to pander to southern blacks to turn them Democrat - he never refers to them as blacks or African Americans. He chooses a different term. I’m sure if LBJ got to decide what went in the library and what didn’t…those tapes would have remained buried.


Side note: I was in LA on business a few months ago. My wife flew out for the weekend and we went to the Reagan Presidential Library. It’s spectacular and that’s putting it mildly. If you ever have the chance, go for a visit.


I did stop there as well as the Carter library and they were certainly libraries, and both were spectacular.


Will the Obama ‘center’ have a 50 ft. tall statue of TrayvonMartin titled “My son”. Will there be an exhibit entitled “The Cambridge Police Acted Stupidly”, or perhaps a Michael Brown wing lionizing Eric Holder for his work toward railroading officer Wilson?

It is stupendously telling that the library will have no books other than what the local library sees fit to donate. Likely no presidential papers either.


I just started laughing uncontrollably. Good thing I’m the only guy that decided to show up to work today.



I wasn’t defending Obama on that or even speaking to that. I was addressing another posters general criticism of Obama. Simply something I’ve heard of every president ever depending on which group is leveling the criticism, shrug.


Chicagoans in droves are venting their displeasure with President Barack Obama’s planned library, calling it an “ugly waste of taxpayer resources” and a “dangerous precedent” for the preservation of historic public parklands.
Recent letters to the editor published in the Chicago Tribune have overwhelmingly panned the Obama Presidential Center, which will take nearly 20 acres from historic Jackson Park and cost taxpayers $100 million in renovations to the surrounding area.
In a letter published on Jan. 26, John Deal of Dolton, Illinois, called the egg-shaped main tower and surrounding buildings “garish monstrosities that ruin the aesthetics of the surrounding parkland stolen from the taxpaying public.”
“Does anyone else think the artist’s rendering of the proposed Obama Presidential Center campus is ugly?” Mr. Deal asked.
Jerry Bruti of Chicagoexpressed outrage that the library is “taking valuable and irreplaceable park land that belongs to all the people of Chicago” in order to erect an “empty monumental edifice.”
“My suggestion: Build the Obama Presidential Center on vacant land that is not already dedicated as parkland, perhaps in an area that needs rejuvenation; and while at it, maybe spend those millions of dollars to build and endow a state-of-the-art school, library, affordable housing or other facility that the people of Chicago really need and can use to improve their quality of life,” Mr. Bruti wrote in the letter published on Jan. 28.

Plans for the library elicited controversy on the South Side even before the University of Chicago won the bid to host the facility in 2015.
Preservationists point out that Jackson Park, part of Chicago’s public park system, was originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the landscape architects behind New York’s famed Central Park.
Then came news that the center will not be Mr. Obama’s official presidential library and will not house documents from the Obama White House.
Two-hundred professors at the University of Chicago, where Mr. Obama lectured on constitutional law for more than a decade, signed a public letter this month denouncing the plans for the library as “socially regressive.” They argued the library’s lush Jackson Park location, right on the lakefront, does little to rejuvenate Chicago’s economically underserved neighborhoods.
“We are concerned that these are not the best ways to use public funds to invest in the future of Chicago,” the professors wrote.
Blair Kamin, the Tribune’s architecture critic, wrote a Jan. 22 column defending the library on both historic and economic grounds. He said rhetoric about the destruction of Jackson Park is “ludicrous” and approvingly cited Obama Foundation estimates that the center will have a $3.1 billion economic impact over 10 years.
He was less enthusiastic about the center’s main tower, which he called “bulky” and “severe,” but argued that “parks need to evolve” and implored opponents of the center to expand their “narrow aesthetic perspective.”
“Improve the Obama center plans,” Mr. Kamin concluded. “Don’t reject them.”
In response to Mr. Kamin’s review, W.J.T. Mitchell, a professor of English and art history at the University of Chicago, penned a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune on Jan. 25. He said the university’s public letter, which he signed, represents a “broad consensus” of scholars who represent “all the disciplines of the arts and sciences.”
“Conservative estimates of the costs of what Kamin calls an improvement to Jackson Park run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, to be paid by the taxpayers of Chicago,” Mr. Mitchell wrote. “The only accomplishment of this ‘improvement’ will be to make commuter traffic just a little bit worse than it is now, while defacing a magnificent historical landmark.”
And in a letter to the editor also published on Jan. 25, Charles A. Birnbaum, president of The Cultural Landscape Foundation, a D.C.-based nonprofit which opposes the center’s construction, argued the plans for the library “suffer from a lack of transparency,” pointing out that the University of Chicago has not made the winning bid for the Obama Presidential Center public.
“What has gotten lost in the discussion is why the University of Chicago, which won the contest to host the center, is not using any of its own land for the project,” Mr. Birnbaum wrote. “The university’s winning bid to host the center — which has never been made public — is remarkable because the university has no ‘skin in the game,’ i.e., none of the property it owns would be used for the center. Instead, the university demanded that Chicagoans give away public parkland listed in the National Register of Historic Places.”
In another letter to the Chicago Tribune, Charles F. Falk of Schaumburg, Illinois, agreed that Mr. Obama deserves “a public monument of some kind that recognizes his undeniable achievements.”
But he questioned if the “mini-Disneyland/Obamaland” would not be better placed “in a locale where it would improve a neighborhood instead of tearing up” Jackson Park, “an established treasure.”
“Chicago should relocate or scrap the Obama Center,” Mr. Falk wrote in the Jan. 23 letter. “If scrapped, the tens of millions of tax dollars not spent on infrastructure for the center would pay for a simple Obama monument and a plaque harmlessly placed on an acre in Jackson Park.”


Johnny… Lets look at this objectively here. You want to say that people object to Obama for… partisan… or racial reason. This is simply not the case. If you actually listen to people here instead of offhandedly calling them simple partisans, you would understand that they are very much attuned to the issues at hand and the damage that Obama did to our country via his very policy moves. The prove of this isn’t that we just elected a republican… yes he was white but I can almost say that if Dr. Ben Carson had the same kind of panash as Trump with the same views presented in the Trump campaign, he very well could have been elected. Do note the shear number of things that Trump has reversed, erased and corrected from the Obama administration… That’s not partisan my friend, that is issues. Now, it remains to be seen if he will meet the words in his campaign promises but believe me, he was not elected because he was a white republican…