Billionaire spaceman Jeff Bezos donated $100 million of his multibillion dollar empire to the Obama Foundation in honor of late civil rights giant Congressman John Lewis. The donation included one stipulation: the naming of the plaza in front of the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.
The foundation announced the donation in a news release on Monday calling the donation “the largest individual contribution received to date.” Bezos’ asked that along with his handsome donation, the plaza being built with the center be named the John Lewis Plaza.
Our forever President Barack Obama broke ground on the center back in September on Chicago’s South Side in Jackson Park. Although many are excited for the center which will feature public gathering spaces, a museum and a library, some feel it may start gentrification in the community.
From the foundation’s release:
With the gift from Bezos, the Foundation is seeking to change the paradigm around naming public spaces within the Center, using it as an opportunity to give donors the option to honor and elevate the names of those who have fought for a more just and equitable world. Dedicated public spaces at the Center will honor civil rights icons, social justice heroes, and changemakers in public service, business and entertainment.
“We believe that there is incredible power in lifting up the names of extraordinary change agents upon whose shoulders we all stand, and we are thrilled by Mr. Bezos’ offer to name our magnificent Plaza in honor of John Lewis,” said Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett. “What’s more, Mr. Bezos’ generous unrestricted gift will enable us to help train a new generation of leaders through programs including the Girls Opportunity Alliance, My Brother’s Keeper, and our Global Leaders Program, while also supporting the Foundation’s Hometown Fund, which invests in the expansion of economic development opportunities for residents of Chicago’s South Side.”
Former Georgia Rep. John Lewis passed last year after a battle with advanced pancreatic cancer. He was known as one of the original Freedom Riders, a protege of Martin Luther King Jr. who marched with him in Selma, Alabama, and a champion for numerous social justice issues for the advancement of Black people.
“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” said Jeff Bezos, according to the release. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”