On Tuesday, Black America’s forever President Barack and forever first lady Michelle Obama will break ground on the 44th president’s unique library, and as with most amazing things attached to the Obama legacy, it is not without controversy.
“The presidential center will include a museum, forum building, public plaza, athletic center, play area and a branch of the Chicago Public Library,” CNN reports.
Also from CNN:
The opening comes after controversy. This will be the first presidential library since the start of the national system that does not include a physical research room with archival materials. Everything will be digitized. There have also been concerns about it being built in a historic park and that low-income Chicagoans living nearby will be displaced by development around the construction of the center in Jackson Park.
All legitimate concerns that the former president believes will be quelled once the Obama Presidential Center is officially standing. During an interview with Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts ahead of the center’s groundbreaking, Obama assured viewers that the people of Chicago—and more importantly the children of the South Side—will have a place they can call home.
“And so, for us to be able to build a world-class institution that will attract millions of people and bring billions of dollars of benefits and thousands of jobs into a community that so often is forgotten, [that] hopefully will send a signal that those young people count. Those young people matter,” he added.
The plan is for the center to help spark job growth in the surrounding communities, and Obama sees Chicago and the building of his presidential center as an opportunity to solve bigger problems on a smaller scale.
“But part of it is also because I believe that both here, in America, and around the world, we’re at a critical juncture where we can either go down the path of division and conflict and tribalism and cynicism, or we can pull together and solve big problems,” Obama said. “And a test case is in a city as wealthy as Chicago, in a country as powerful as the United States; is everybody included? And, you know, here on the South Side, there’s young people who are enormously talented, enormously gifted, but often forgotten.”
According to ABC News, with hope comes controversy as the park’s location has been the cause of a few lawsuits; Jackson Park is a public park that is on the National Register of Historic Places. And, not everyone sees the center as a beacon of hope, as some believe the location will be the beginning of gentrification, which would displace current residents.
But Obama told Roberts that he’s sure that the center will bring life to the park and that the Obama Foundation would not have “gone through such an exhaustive process” to include community input in developing the establishment.
“Ultimately, what we wanna do is empower [people in the community] to do the work where they live in their various communities. And part of the goal of the presidential center is anybody who visits the museum, we want them to come through and, at the end of the museum, we’re gonna be asking them the question, ‘How can you make a contribution?’” Obama told Roberts, ABC News reports.
“We wanna be able to say to them, ‘Look, this isn’t about some president over there. This is about citizens like you who could make a difference,’” he added.