Obamas to make Chicago library site official at 5 a.m. Tuesday

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WASHINGTON — At 5 a.m. Tuesday, with 618 days left in office, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle will announce that the Obama library, museum and presidential center will be in Chicago.

Just after sunrise in Chicago, a video with the first couple will be released, and for the first time, the Obamas in their own words will comment on their post-presidential legacy projects.

At noon, Martin Nesbitt, the Obama friend who is chairman of the Chicago-based Barack Obama Foundation, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who was Obama’s first chief of staff, will hold a press conference at the Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 S. Ingleside, to discuss the successful University of Chicago bid.

The U. of Chicago bid emphasized partnerships, including with the other finalists, the University of Illinois at Chicago, pitching sites on the West Side; Columbia University in New York, where Obama received his undergraduate degree; and the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, the city where he was born.

A source based in Chicago said the Obama foundation will eventually be in New York, on Columbia’s West Harlem campus. Hawaii, always a long shot, had been angling for a satellite facility.

Emanuel pushed hard for Chicago, with his City Hall team, led by adviser David Spielfogel, working closely with the foundation for more than a year. The first bid documents were released on March 20, 2014.

On Monday in Chicago, Emanuel said: “As somebody who is committed to moving heaven and earth, I can’t wait until when that responsibility is off my shoulders at one level.”


An aerial view of Washington Park, one of two sites the University of Chicago proposed for the Obama presidential library and museum. | Lee Hogan/ Sun-Times library

A decision on whether the Obama development will be in Washington Park or Jackson Park still has to be finalized.

The South Side and the U. of Chicago are closely associated with the first couple. Obama launched his community organizing and political career on the South Side and Michelle Obama was raised on the South Side. As adults, both of them worked at the U. of Chicago, and their closest friends all have ties to the school based in Hyde Park.

Michelle Obama’s candid speech on race

Obama is calling this the “fourth quarter” of his presidency, a time when he is planning for his post-presidential life.

Last week, at an event in the Bronx, he announced the creation of a new group, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, to continue his White House initiative of working with at-risk African-American male youths “long after I’ve left office. It’s a big deal.”

And with no more elections to face, Michelle Obama made an emotional, candid commencement speech about race on Saturday at Tuskegee University, the Alabama school with a historically black student body.

As the first African-American first couple, she said, “We’ve both felt the sting of those daily slights throughout our entire lives — the folks who crossed the street in fear of their safety; the clerks who kept a close eye on us in all those department stores; the people at formal events who assumed we were the “help” — and those who have questioned our intelligence, our honesty, even our love of this country.”

And in 2008, referring to the New Yorker, she said, the “first time I was on a magazine cover it was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge Afro and machine gun. Now, yeah, it was satire, but if I’m really being honest, it knocked me back a bit. It made me wonder, just how are people seeing me?”

This is a speech that will be part of the first lady’s section in the Obama center.

Fran Spielman reported from Chicago

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