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Obama creating national monuments in Chicago, Hawaii and Colorado today

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama hits adopted hometown Chicago on Thursday to designate the historic Pullman community a national monument — on a day where he also creates monuments in his native Hawaii and in Colorado.

Obama will be in Chicago for just a few hours in the afternoon. But after the Pullman event at the Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, 250 East 111th St. on the far South Side,  Obama has a few open hours on his schedule. I expect  the president will do some campaigning for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former chief of staff – perhaps vote early or drop in at a phone bank. The city election is next Tuesday.

RELATED: Pullman Historic District plays friendly politics for Obama, Rahm

Of course, it will be noteworthy if the Obama motorcade zips by Washington or Jackson parks, potential sites for the Obama library, museum and academic center. Perhaps Obama will drop by his Kenwood home, near those parks proposed for the project.

Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman has a story looking at whether Obama’s visit can help Emanuel boost African-American voter turnout.

Meanwhile, back on the monuments. Pullman has been trying for years to get Congress to put it in the National Park System. Now imprisoned Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. D-Ill. years ago started a drive to get a study done to get the ball rolling. Rep. Robin Kelly D-Ill., Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill. and Sen. Mark Kirk R-Ill. and other members of the Illinois delegation backed Pullman. But Congress did not act. So Obama is going to, using his executive authority. On this one, I don’t expect any court challenge.

Pullman is important in labor and African-American history.

Rachel Bohlmann, who is the Director of Continuing Education at the Newberry Library in Chicago said, ”Pullman preserves the memory of an important moment in American labor history. The activism among the company’s workers, from the railroad strike of 1894 to the unionization of Pullman porters, exposed the inequalities of industrial capitalism in the late 1800s and early 1900s. These kinds of contests are necessary in a democratic society.”

Obama is also launching today his “Every Kid in a Park initiative,” according to the White House,  ”a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors.”

Pullman, the town rail car tycoon George Pullman built is on the far South Side, where Obama started his career as a community organizer. The Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii is the site of an internment camp where Japanese American citizens were held during World War II. Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado is a major recreation center.

Also being announced today: Donations to help fund restoration of Pullman from Chicagoans.

From the release: “Pullman National Monument, which is set to become Chicago’s first National Park Service site later today, already has nearly $8 million in support thanks to gifts received by the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks and nonprofit partner to the National Park Service.

“The gifts will help jumpstart critical projects at the new park including the establishment of a visitor center, educational and experiential exhibits, and programming in the Administrative Clock Tower Building designed to engage schoolchildren, the community, and visitors about the importance of Pullman to America’s collective history. A generous lead gift was provided by National Park Foundation director Bryan Traubert of the Pritzker Traubert Foundation. Major support also came from National Park Foundation director and Chicagoan Brien O’Brien and Mary Hasten; Union Pacific Foundation; National Park Foundation director Ellen Alberding and Kelly Welsh; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and David Hiller Charitable Fund.”

Traubert is the husband of Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker; Welsh serves as a Pritzker top deputy in the Commerce Department.

Below, lots of facts and background from the White House….


Office of the Press Secretary


February 19, 2015


FACT SHEET: Launching the Every Kid in a Park Initiative and Designating New National Monuments


As part of President Obama’s commitment to protect our Nation’s unique outdoor spaces and ensure that every American has the opportunity to visit and enjoy them, today he will launch an “Every Kid in a Park” initiative that will provide all fourth grade students and their families with free admission to National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year. He will also announce the creation of three new National Monuments across the country.


The President will make the announcements near the site of the historic Pullman town in Chicago, a location iconic for its history of labor unrest and civil rights advances, which will be the City’s first National Park Service (NPS) unit. He also will announce that he will designate Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii, the site of an internment camp where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II, and Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado, an historic site of extraordinary beauty with world-class recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the globe. Together, these monuments will help tell the story of significant events in American history and protect unique natural resources for the benefit of all Americans.


Every Kid in a Park

In the lead up to the 100th birthday of the National Park Service in 2016, the President’s Every Kid in a Park initiative is a call to action to get all children to visit and enjoy America’s unparalleled outdoors. Today, more than 80 percent of American families live in urban areas, and many lack easy access to safe outdoor spaces. At the same time, kids are spending more time than ever in front of screens instead of outside. A 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that young people now devote an average of more than seven hours a day to electronic media use, or about 53 hours a week – more than a full time job.


America’s public lands and waters offer space to get outside and get active, and are living classrooms that provide opportunities to build critical skills through hands-on activities. To inspire the next generation to discover all that America’s public lands and waters have to offer, the Obama Administration will provide all 4th grade students and their families free admission to all National Parks and other federal lands and waters for a full year, starting with the 2015-2016 school year. The initiative will also:


· Make it easy for schools and families to plan trips: The Administration will distribute information and resources to make it easy for teachers and families to identify nearby public lands and waters and to find programs that support youth outings.


· Provide transportation support to schools with the most need: As an integral part of this effort, the National Park Foundation (NPF) – the congressionally chartered foundation of the National Park Service – is expanding and re-launching its Ticket to Ride program as Every Kid in a Park, which will award transportation grants for kids to visit parks, public lands and waters, focusing on schools that have the most need.


· Provide educational materials: The initiative will build on a wide range of educational programs and tools that the federal land management agencies already use. For example, NPS has re-launched a website with over 1,000 materials developed for K-12 teachers, including science labs, lesson plans, and field trip guides. And a number of federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Education, and NPS participate in Hands on the Land, a national network of field classrooms and agency resources that connects students, teachers, families, and volunteers with public lands and waterways.


To further support this effort, the President’s 2016 Budget includes a total increased investment of $45 million for youth engagement programs throughout the Department of the Interior, with $20 million specifically provided to the National Park Service for youth activities, including bringing 1 million fourth-grade children from low-income areas to national parks. This increase will also fund dedicated youth coordinators to help enrich children and family learning experiences at parks and online.


Pullman National Monument in Illinois:

This monument will preserve and highlight America’s first planned industrial town, and a site that tells important stories about the social dynamics of the industrial revolution, of American opportunity and discrimination, and of the rise of labor unions and the struggle for civil rights and economic opportunity for African Americans and other minorities. The 203-acre site includes factories and buildings associated with the Pullman Palace Car Company, which was founded in 1867 and employed thousands of workers to construct and provide service on railroad cars. While the Pullman Company employed a mostly white workforce to manufacture railroad passenger cars, it also recruited the first porters, waiters and maids from the population of former slaves to serve on its luxury cars. Though lower-paying, these service jobs held prestige in the African-American community and played a major role in the rise of the African-American middle class and, through an historic labor agreement, the development of the civil rights movement of the 20th Century. The historic labor movement organized by A. Philip Randolph in the 1930s to win rights for these porters, waiters and maids ultimately created the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first labor union led by African Americans to receive a charter in the American Federation.


The National Park Foundation today announced that nearly $8 million dollars has already been raised to support the monument, which will be Chicago’s first National Park Service unit and will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.


Browns Canyon National Monument in Colorado:

This monument will protect a stunning section of Colorado’s upper Arkansas River Valley. Located in Chaffee County near the town of Salida, Colorado, the 21,586-acre monument features rugged granite cliffs, colorful rock outcroppings, and mountain vistas that are home to a diversity of plants and wildlife, including bighorn sheep and golden eagles. Members of Congress, local elected officials, conservation advocates, and community members have worked for more than a decade to protect the area, which hosts world-class recreational opportunities that attract visitors from around the globe for hiking, whitewater rafting, hunting and fishing. In addition to supporting this vibrant outdoor recreation economy, the designation will protect the critical watershed and honor existing water rights and uses, such as grazing and hunting. The monument will be cooperatively managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management and USDA’s National Forest Service.


Honouliuli National Monument in Hawaii:

This monument permanently protects a site where Japanese American citizens, resident immigrants, and prisoners of war were held captive during World War II. Located on the island of Oahu, the monument will help tell the difficult story of the internment camp’s impact on the Japanese American community and the fragility of civil rights during times of conflict. Honouliuli Internment Camp, located in a steep canyon not far from Pearl Harbor, opened in March, 1943 and was the largest and longest-used confinement site for Japanese and European Americans and resident immigrants in Hawaii, eventually holding 400 civilian internees and 4,000 prisoners of war. The camp was largely forgotten until uncovered in 2002, and the President’s designation will ensure its stories are told for generations. The monument will be managed by the Department of the Interior’s National Park Service.


Background on Antiquities Act Designations

The Antiquities Act was first exercised by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to designate Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Since then, 16 presidents have used this authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, and Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients.


With these new designations, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 16 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 260 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.