Obama Selma speech excerpt to be designed into Chicago presidential center

The speech extract, which President Barack Obama delivered at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in 2015, will start with the phrase, 'You are America'

Barack and Michelle Obama have revealed that an excerpt of a speech the former president delivered will be drawn into the architecture of the forthcoming Barack Obama Presidential Center, a construction project scheduled to break ground in their hometown Chicago as early as August.

Each took to their individual Instagram accounts earlier this week to disclose that the extract, beginning with the phrase, “You are America,” will be designed into the outer façade of the building. The words come from a 2015 speech he delivered at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in commemoration of Congressman John Lewis on the 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches.

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“Today, we unveil the words that will appear on the exterior of the Obama Presidential Center as a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of those who marched in Selma and all those who came before us and that the task of progress is now in our hands,” the first lady wrote in a post on Monday.

President Obama explained in a separate video post the significance of the excerpt, particularly the phrase “You are America,” and why it’s important to include it in the architecture of the building. He said that the ideals from the excerpt speak to the goals that he and Mrs. Obama hope to achieve by reviving the Chicago community.

“Throughout that speech, what I tried to describe is that America, from the start, was in fact made up of outsiders and misfits and people who were often dismissed or discarded,” he said. “What I hope the quote provides is a sense for all those folks on the south side of Chicago that they count, that they matter.”

A text excerpt of President Barack Obama’s 2015 speech to mark 50th anniversary of the Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches was designed into the architecture of the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. (via screenshot)

First Lady Obama echoed the sentiments of her husband in her post, stating she hopes the quote and facility inspire the people and youth who reside in the city where she grew up, where President Obama became a community organizer and where the two raised their two daughters.

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“My hope is when young folks from my old neighborhood look up and see the words ‘You Are America,’ they never question whether they belong or whether they have the power to shape this country’s future,” she said.

The excerpt to be carved into the structure reads as follows:

“You are America. Unconstrained by habit and convention. Unencumbered by what is, ready to seize what ought to be. For everywhere in this country, there are first steps to be taken, there is new ground to cover, there are more bridges to be crossed. America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We The People.’ ‘We Shall Overcome.’ ‘Yes We Can.’ That word is owned by no one. It belongs to everyone. Oh, what a glorious task we are given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours.”

-Barack Obama, 2015

Groundbreaking for the $500 million Obama Presidential Center is set to commence in August at the earliest, while preliminary construction will start next month, according to the Obama Foundation.

President Obama said in a video statement in February that the facility, set to reside in Jackson Park on Chicago’s South Side, will include a museum, activity center and library. Outside will include playgrounds, gardens, walking trails, an athletic center and bike paths.

The Obama Presidential Center’s official website states that the site will provide a surge of employment opportunities for the surrounding residents.

“By tapping into the boundless talent of neighborhoods throughout Chicago, it will become a campus for the community, built in partnership with the community,” the Obama Foundation said.

The Obama Foundation estimates that the Center will generate $3.1 Billion for Chicago and Cook County at large.

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