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Obamas break ground for presidential center on Chicago’s south side

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Obama Groundbreaking

CHICAGO, Ill. - Barack and Michelle Obama were in Chicago Tuesday for the groundbreaking of the presidential center honoring their legacy. The former President and First Lady chose to build the center in Jackson Park on the city's south side, recognizing the neighborhood where their story began.

It wasn't long ago when Barack Obama walked the halls of the Illinois Capitol in Springfield as a state Senator. But before that, he was a young community organizer in Chicago. A large museum, public library, athletic center, and playground will now be built across Jackson Park.

Barack and Michelle explained the south side shaped their values and helped inspire them to become leaders years later. The Obamas also said they want this destination to engage young leaders for the future.

"We want this to be a living, thriving home for concerts, cultural events, lectures, trainings, summits, topical dialogues and conversations," Obama said. "We want this to be a hub for in-house fellows with real-world experience to share what's working and what's not in solving the big problems of the day."

Michelle Obama recalled living on the south side and getting in her father's car to drive downtown to see museums. She said families in the area will finally have the opportunity to enjoy an attraction without heading far from home.

"This investment, the substantial investment in the south side, will help make the neighborhood where we call home a destination for the world," Obama said.

Inspiring future leaders and creating new jobs

Two local high school students had the opportunity to introduce the Obamas during the ceremony. The former President and First Lady said this project could inspire many other young people like them.

Gov. JB Pritzker noted the new Chicago attraction has the first woman architect of a presidential center in US history. He also said the state is leading by ensuring Black contractors and laborers become the substantial builders for the project. Many hope it can create thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars for the community.

"The center will grow as the Obamas have lived - with work rooted in creating new leaders amongst neighbors and bringing more resources to a community that has historically received less," Pritzker said. "By 2025, changemakers from all over the world will come right here to learn about the Obamas' journey, take advantage of transformative resources, and engage in celebration in community spaces, marking Jackson Park as an incubator for hope and progress for years to come."

President Joe Biden also spoke virtually during the groundbreaking ceremony. Biden said the new presidential center will build upon the idea of America as the land of possibilities.

"Each day, people of every age and background are going to learn about this historic presidency," Biden said. "But more than that, especially for all the young people, you'll be able to imagine yourself as the person who you dream to be. And with your own confidence and courage, you'll know that you can do it. You'll know that in America, anything is possible as you write the next chapter in the history of this nation."

The Obama Presidential Center is scheduled to open in 2025.

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Mike Miletich

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