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Trying to build consensus on Obama library is ‘messy’ but worth it

President Barack Obama speaks at a public meeting at McCormick Place on Tuesday to discuss plans and zoning for the Obama Presidential Center. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

The Barack Obama Presidential Center presents an important opportunity that has been overlooked — that is the chance to set an example on how to build consensus within a community of differing perspectives.

I don’t know who speaks for the most people on the South Side or indeed for the best interests of the entire city, because the costs and the benefits extend beyond one neighborhood. But I do know that there has to be a way to have the conversation about an agreement or charter that examines how to get the most benefit with the fewest unintended consequences.

Public dialog and community building is messy. It is equally irksome to see naked self-interest and idealistic, unrealistic dreams. But the conversation and the effort matter. It’s part of the culture that brings foes, friends, fans and skeptics to the same table with a chance of doing something good for Chicago.

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Recently, I have seen two contrasting sides of former President Obama. I was moved and inspired by his Netflix interview with David Letterman. I was disappointed with the sound clips I heard from his surprise appearance at an Obama Center meeting.

He seemed to step into character saying hey, these pesky questions and demands are unimportant and divisive. “You feel me?”

No, I don’t feel you. It was an ill-advised approach. We don’t need to hear how hard it is to know who to listen to or to make sure the right people are represented.

Challenge people and organizations to come together and create a representative group with clear requests. Ask smart young people how to figure it all out. If it doesn’t work, people will still have been heard and the amazing good fortune of having the 44th president’s library in Chicago will be unsullied.

The Obama Library can only benefit from a diversity of ideas, concerns and even criticisms. This is an opportunity for the Obamas and their team to model the behavior we want to see in the next generation of leaders.

Sylvia Ewing, Tinley Park

If we’re supposed to protect ourselves…

Perhaps the president should dismiss his Secret Service protection and just carry his own handgun.

Larry A. Niemi, Loop

Sensible gun laws, please

It seems that after every mass shooting, firearm defenders are quick to claim that any proposed new gun regulations would not have prevented the latest atrocity. That might be true but isn’t the intention of regulations — of any kind — to affect future events?

How many fewer lives would have been lost had the 1990s assault weapons ban been kept in place rather than allowed to lapse? I call on our political leaders to commit to preventing future death by enacting reasonable safeguards now.

Robert Bausone, Des Plaines

Brown Band-Aids

As substitute teacher primarily at the elementary school level, I not infrequently give out or put on a Band-Aid for minor cuts and scratches. As a European-American with primarily African-American students, I have noticed that the Band-Aids — which should be inconspicuous — do not blend. This is insensitive, to say the least.

Therefore, I suggest that all bandage manufacturers produce brown ones as well. Again, to be respectful of human differences, they would ideally be made in shades of light, medium and dark.

We should respect our differences and at the same time remember that, first and foremost, we are all members of the human race.

Gary Podolner, University of Chicago Charter Schools