Obama and Chicago officials address the community as plans are finalized for presidential center

Folks are excited about what's coming, but worried about the financial impact.

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President Obama speaks at Goalkeepers 2017 in New York City. Goalkeepers is organized by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to highlight progress against global poverty and disease, showcase solutions to help advance the Sustainable Development Goals (or Global Goals) and foster bold leadership to help accelerate the path to a more prosperous, healthy and just future.

At a public meeting on Tuesday, former president Barack Obama and members of the Obama Foundation spoke to the those from various Chicago area communities about the Obama Presidential Center and its impact on Jackson Park.

In answering questions about the center, Obama said that while he wanted it to be “meaningful and fun,” he also wanted the center to have a significant impact on the community.

“Twenty years from now, 30 years from now, I want young people all across Chicago to look at this center and say, ‘This is a sign that I count and this is a sign that I can change the world,’” said the former President. “That’s more important than any other legacy I could possibly have.”

How will the center impact the community?

Michael Strautmanis, vice president of civic engagement for the foundation, also spoke at the event, stating that the center will employ the use construction teams whose staffs are at least 50 percent women and minority companies as a way to make sure that diverse communities are served.

“We’re taking this step-by-step, and getting people’s advice and criticism,” Strautmanis said. “We want to make sure our minority partners are not just a check in the box. We wanted to make sure our minority partners had a seat at the table.”


While community members seemed to be excited by the center itself, there were still concerns about long-term costs and effects on Jackson Park.

“What we didn’t get from this is what the financial impact will mean for the community,” said Rashieda Weaver, 60, who lives in the area. “I’m excited that this is coming here, but I think there’s a lot out of the president’s control and it’s not his fault — he’s an ex-president, not God,” she told the Chicago Sun-Times. 

The long-term effects remain to be seen, though we’re encouraged by the focus on diversity and President Obama’s dedication to leaving a lasting legacy.