Letters: Land grab for Obama library dishonors President’s legacy

SHARE Letters: Land grab for Obama library dishonors President’s legacy

Washington Park is a proposed site for President Obama’s library, museum and presidential center. A bill fast-tracked through the Illinois legislature makes it easier to develop on parkland. Photo by Brian Jackson for The Sun-Times.

This week’s news reports on the political conspiracy to take precious parkland for the Obama Library confirm our worst suspicions: That the hearings to gauge public sentiment were merely a charade and pressure release, and the fix was in from the start.

Never mind that abundant, suitable city-owned vacant land exists for the purpose, some of it even facing Washington Park.  Never mind that at this rate, 300 years from now, with this as precedent, politicians pushing pet projects shall  have egotistically gobbled up yet more tracts of irreplaceable park acreage, gradually shrinking them.  Never mind that “forever open, clear and free” no longer has meaning.

Currying favor for the moment, craven politicians have betrayed this public trust and inheritance. Yes, better the library should be in Chicago.  But at the price of dishonoring future generations with this cavalier giveaway of their legacy dishonors us all.  Sullying President Obama’s legacy seems a strange way to honor it.

Ted Z. Manuel, Hyde Park

SEND LETTERS TO: letters@suntimes.com (Please include the name of your neighborhood or town, and a phone number for verification purposes.)

A matter of (public) space

Something is about to die in Springfield — a concept, an ideal. As Natasha Korecki reported (“Legislature passes bill to help Obama library, Lucas museum” — April 24), the legislature on Thursday quickly passed a bill that would allow for private development on public parkland in Chicago, while hindering the ability of groups such as Friends of the Parks to sue to stop such development.

If the governor signs this bill, and I’m sure he will, public parkland in Chicago will be imperiled. The rich, the powerful, and the politically well connected — the 1 percenters, which includes George Lucas and the Obamas — will win, as they always seem to do, while the rest of us will lose precious public space as well as the concept behind that space.

What’s next, I wonder?

John Vukmirovich, Kenwood

Illinois needs civic-minded youth

Rep. Deborah Conroy, D-Elmhurst, and the members of the Illinois House of Representatives should be complimented for passing legislation requiring Illinois students to take a semester of civics before graduating high school.

As the Sun-Times points out (“Make civics a class requirement” — April 23) and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation recognizes, America is at a crossroads. Citizenship has never been more essential for shaping the future of our country.  Yet, we are doing less today to prepare students to be good citizens than in the past.

It’s bad enough that our American youth are failing on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but worse yet, is the fact that the civic education they receive is inadequate in scope.

We need to do much better and much more in the area of civics. Rep. Conroy’s legislation is a first step because it expands and enhances the approach to civics. By incorporating service learning, it moves from a focus on civic education alone to a focus on civic competencies and engagement.

The Robert R. McCormick Foundation should be applauded for stepping up to the plate and taking the lead to raise private funding for this initiative. We are fortunate in Illinois to have a number of nonprofits doing excellent programming in the civic arena. Thanks to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.,  there is the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources program in Illinois that includes 11 partners across the state that provide professional development to teachers and pre-service education students on utilizing the Library of Congress digital resources focused on inquiry-based learning in the classroom.

We all agree on the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in education but it is equally important to the future of our democracy that our youth are taught civics. Let’s take a first step and pass this legislation.

Sheila A. Smith, Chair/CEO

Barat Education Foundation

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