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Commerce Sec. Pritzker pushes for Obama library to be in Chicago. Praises Rutter appointment

WASHINGTON—Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said Wednesday that an Obama presidential library should be located in Chicago, but she declined to name a place in the city where it should be. She also praised the appointment of Chicago Symphony Orchestra chief Deborah Rutter to be the new president of the Kennedy Center here.

Pritzker headlined POLITICO’s Playbook Breakfast and during the session I asked her whether the library should be in the city and where it should be located. See the CSPAN video of my asking Pritzker about an Obama presidential library in Chicago HERE.

“I am very hopeful,” Pritzker said. “I have no inside information on this. But I am very hopeful that the presidential library will be in Chicago. I think it is very important and I know that the leadership in Chicago, both political and lay leadership in Chicago very much would like that.

“It would be a tremendous asset and a great legacy for the city. So I am very hopeful that that will happen,” Pritzker said at the session moderated by Politics’s Mike Allen.

I have been reporting that all signs point to the library being in Chicago despite the University of Hawaii mounting a drive for it. The University of Chicago—an institution to which Pritzker has deep ties—is aggressively seeking it, already engaging architects, including Chicago’s rising star Jeanne Gang to work on conceptual drawings.

A location I hear Mayor Rahm Emanuel is very interested in is the site of the former Michael Reese Hospital at 29th and Ellis.

The University of Illinois/Chicago and Chicago State University are also preparing proposals. The decision is solely up to President Barack Obama.

Rutter will become the first woman to lead Kennedy Center, which stages theater, dance, opera and symphony performances. Pritzker served on the Kennedy Center Board.

“I think first of all the appointment is fantastic. I am so excited about it. Another Chicagoan here is always good. She is a great leader,” Pritzker said.

The Kennedy Center, with a$180 million annual budget is a “very complex organization” and has launched a drive to overhaul the performance complex on the Potomac River.

“I think a big part of (Rutter’s) agenda is making more available to the public, adding “more space that will allow performances to be shared with the public, as well as more rehearsal space and more administration space.”

David Rubenstein, a Co-Founder and Co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms, is the chairman of the Kennedy Center Board of Trustees, has pledged $50 million, the lead gift in the capital campaign.

Rubenstein is a 1973 graduate of the University of Chicago Law school and is on the U. of C. Board.

Pritzker note that “The capital campaign will be the number one big priority there. But very exciting to have another leader from Chicago.”

Pritzker was also asked about where the Obamas will live when they leave the White House. First lady Michelle Obama has dropped some hints that returning to Chicago full time may not be in their future.

“I’m not sure whether the old life will be there,” she said in April, 2012. Obama told ABC’s Barbara Walters in a recent interview that Sasha, 12, will have a “vote” to decide if the family stays here after Obama’s term ends so she could graduate high school at Sidwell Friends School. The Obama’s presume Malia Obama, 15, will be in college when the move out of the White House.

”I am a mother,” said Pritzker the mother of two—one in college, another a recent graduate. The goal is to “try to balance what is in the best interest” of yourself and children. .“I completely understand calculus of what they are the going through,” she said. And that, she added, “is darn hard with the kind of public eye they are in.”

But all this talk is premature, said Pritzker.

“I respect the President and First Lady as they decide where they want to live. They are young. And first of all, I would not focus so much right now on where they are going to live afterwards. I am focuses on thr o I am not really planning or thinking that much about everyone’s future after the three years. We’ve got a lot to do in the meantime,” Pritzker said.