Our mission is to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world.
The Obama Foundation is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation established in 2014 to carry on President and Mrs. Obama’s lifelong goals to empower active citizens, build stronger communities, and create lasting change at the local, national, and global level. The Foundation oversees planning for the future Obama Presidential Center, as well as a range of domestic and global programs. The Foundation calls the South Side of Chicago home and is headquartered just a few blocks away from the future site of the Obama Presidential Center.
The Foundation is governed by a volunteer board of directors, chaired by civic leader Martin H. Nesbitt.
Lending Our Ears, Rolling Up Our Sleeves
Public Support For The Obama Presidential Center At City Hall
We’re not just headquartered in this community, we’re part of it. That’s why engagement, stewardship, and volunteerism are central to our work.
From Pilsen to Chatham to Woodlawn, we’ve spent the past two years engaged in dynamic conversation with Chicagoans about our plans to bring the Obama Presidential Center to Jackson Park. But once the Chicago City Council approved our zoning application, we realized it was time to begin another kind of listening tour—one that shifted our attention to how Chicagoans wanted to use and enjoy the future Center.
In June of 2018, we held our first ever Chicago Community Conversation at the University of Illinois at Chicago to get things started. The event brought together 300 local grassroots and community leaders to reflect on Chicago’s rich history of organizing and delve into ways we could all work together to improve our city.
And that was just the start. In the months after, we began gathering small groups of our neighbors for informal dinner conversations to discuss our changing city.
Then in July, we forged a partnership with The Honeycomb Project in Chicago to help us connect with our neighbors through acts of goodwill and service. Together, we’ve packed lunches for the homeless and organized beach clean ups. And we’re still rolling up our sleeves to do more.
Speakers Who Testified
Inspired by the amazing concerts, performances, and celebrations in the East Room during the Obama Presidency, the 300-seat auditorium will host a variety of public events and screenings. We plan to bring in performing artists and speakers whose work complements the themes of community engagement or whose presence affords neighbors on the South Side a chance to see renowned acts. The auditorium won’t just be used for special events, however. It will also be a place for community events, and when not in active use, will screen selected content and be open for visitors to enjoy.
Broadcast and Recording Studio
From blues to jazz, hip hop to house, Chicago has always had its own sound. We’re building a recording studio that hits all the right notes, from workshops and master classes in audio production to the opportunity for anyone to lay down a track. For those practicing their flow or starting a podcast, our recording studio will be a place for our neighbors to share their voices. We’ll also have a broadcast studio for budding influencers who want to get some experience either behind or in front of the camera.
Flexible learning and meeting spaces
The Forum will also have six flexible programming rooms for a wide variety of public programming. Each room can accommodate groups of varying sizes and needs for meetings and workshops, orientation sessions for Museum tours, or club meetings and after school programs.
In addition to its sound, Chicago definitely has its own flavor. Our restaurant will be the main dining space for visitors, with outdoor seating available during the warmer seasons. The restaurant will also offer catering service to support meetings, gatherings, and special events at the Center.
All renderings featured in the report are under development and are subject to change as the design process progresses.
The Chicago Public Library
We’ve partnered with the Chicago Public Library to bring a new, 5,000-square-foot branch to Jackson Park, offering specialized programs and events for children, and spaces to learn and create for everyone.
The new branch of the Chicago Public Library will also include the President’s Reading Room, which will serve as an extension of the Obama Presidential Center Museum experience. The President’s Reading Room will provide visitors with a relaxing yet inspiring place to read. It will offer small exhibits focused on the importance of literacy, education, and community service, and feature a special collection of books that are meaningful to President and Mrs. Obama.
The Plaza and Park
At the heart of the Obama Presidential Center will be a public plaza that serves as a place for the Foundation and our neighbors to host informal and planned gatherings alike. It will feature public artwork and host outdoor performances, farmers markets, and fairs.
A nearby park will offer play areas, walking paths, and a sledding hill, all connected by a long pedestrian promenade that joins the Center to Jackson Park and runs alongside its beautiful and historic lagoons.
Program, Athletic, and Activity Center
It wouldn’t be the Obama Presidential Center without a place to shoot some hoops. The fourth main building on the campus will be the Program, Athletic, and Activity Center. The facility will be a home for recreation, community programming, and events. With our largest indoor gathering space, the Program, Athletic, and Activity Center will be a place for pickup games, rec leagues, dance classes, senior yoga, volleyball tournaments, and aerobic fitness classes. But it won’t just be a place to get your heart pumping. It will also offer camps and trainings that teach young people the importance of teamwork, determination, and sportsmanship—skills that serve any future leader well. And it will also host large events and programs that emphasize the importance of community engagement and leadership.
Fruit and Vegetable Garden and Teaching Kitchen
Paying homage to Mrs. Obama’s garden from the White House, we’ll have a Fruit and Vegetable Garden showcasing local produce and active beehives. We’ll also have a teaching kitchen and classroom integrated into the garden that will enable us to offer demonstrations and hands-on classes for our neighbors on topics like planting, harvesting, and cooking from home gardens. The Garden classroom will also provide ideal space for school field trips to introduce kids to healthy eating, the environment, and the importance of pollinators.
Children's Play Area and Great Lawn
The Children’s Play Area and Great Lawn will be the park we all wish we had grown up near. It’ll have a giant playground with innovative, imaginative play equipment for children and seating for adults to relax. It’s a place for sledding in the winter and picnics in the summer. And it will be the perfect place to get a view of Jackson Park’s beautiful lagoons year-round.
From Hope to History
Our Oral History Partnership
The Foundation recently announced that Columbia University, along with partners at the University of Chicago and University of Hawai i, had been selected to produce the official oral history of the Obama presidency.
Over the next five years, these institutions will conduct interviews with roughly 400 people, including Cabinet secretaries, assistants to the President, mid- and lower-level administration staff, journalists, and outside figures—Republican and Democrat—both in Washington and beyond, who can speak to this president’s eight years in office. The project will also examine Mrs. Obama’s work, initiatives, and legacy as First Lady. Partners in Chicago and Hawai i will explore how both communities shaped President and Mrs. Obama’s pre-presidential lives.
Columbia and its academic partners will have full control over all editorial aspects of the project, and they expect to make the oral histories publicly available online by 2026.
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Obama Presidential Center Spending
In 2018, we set a goal of spending 32.5 percent of the Obama Presidential Center professional services budget with diverse vendors—firms that are at least 51 percent owned, operated, and controlled by women, people of color, people with disabilities, veterans, or members of the LGBTQ+ community. By the end of the year, we had exceeded that goal with more than 40 percent of our spend going to diverse vendors.
Across our Chicago, D.C., and New York offices, 24 percent of our operations spend was with diverse vendors, a total of $7 million spent with 150 businesses. We define operations spend as the number of dollars spent on a variety of professional services, including event planning, production services, office services, technology, and consulting.
We pride ourselves on working with minority- and women-owned business enterprises around the country, especially at home in Chicago.
The Obama Youth Jobs Corps
A Foot in the Door
We are proud to partner with Urban Alliance, a national youth development organization, to provide workforce development training to underserved high school students through the Obama Youth Jobs Corps. Beginning in the tenth grade, Obama Youth Jobs Corps students receive workforce readiness training at partner organizations and businesses throughout Chicago, culminating in a ten-month paid internship during a student’s senior year. There are currently 105 sophomores in the program, as well as 56 juniors who are poised for an internship placement in the fall
Jason Guzman is a senior at Curie Metropolitan High School and hopes to study computer science at DePaul University in the fall. Jason is currently interning at Hyatt, an Obama Youth Jobs Corps partner, and he considers the experience invaluable.
“I have grown so much both professionally and personally,” Jason said. “I have learned important real world skills through my job and from my mentor, such as how to confidently give a presentation in a room full of people, work cross-functionally with other teams, and remain professional in all environments. Working hard is the only way you can make a difference and become the best version of yourself.”
More than the skills he has learned, Jason’s favorite part of the experience has been the way he’s been embraced as a member of the Hyatt team. “I am given tasks that make an impact.”
Our foundation is guided by a belief that everyone has a role to play in the future of their communities.
But how people show up to lead is just as important as whether they show up to lead in the first place. To drive lasting change, leaders need to be inclusive. They need to prioritize equity and diversity. They need to prize integrity and accountability. And rather than imposing their ideas from the top down, they need to build support from the bottom up, working at the grassroots within their communities.
In each of our initiatives—whether they take place in the South Side of Chicago or in South Africa—you’ll recognize a common approach that reinforces these tenets. We invest in human potential to help emerging community leaders build the world they want to see. We prioritize investing in diverse communities and work hard to recruit talented changemakers from underrepresented communities.
We stress the importance of ethical leadership and reinforce the idea that the change people seek is more important than the title they hold. We make time for service, whether it’s refurbishing a local school in Johannesburg, pulling up weeds for our neighbors in Chicago, or helping people develop their own communitybased projects and organizations.
Above all, we take the long view. We are embarking on a generational project, developing leaders around the world who will help determine our shared future. But while change doesn’t happen overnight, we know that it starts in our communities.
And in our case, that means right in our backyard.
By the Numbers
After completing the community leadership corps, we surveyed participants about their experience.
reported that they plan to continue working in their communities
felt they knew the next step to making change in their community
felt personally connected to young leaders who are making a change in their community
Community Leadership Training Days
Change Starts Today
Every generation has a chance to remake history. But if you’re a young person who wants to change your community, your country, or even the world, where do you start?We created Community Leadership Training Days to answer that question. In Dallas, Oakland, and Oklahoma City, we hosted day-and-a-half sessions that brought together 100 18-to-25-year-olds to learn the skills to lead. Passionate young people learned how to tell their own stories and how to use those personal narratives as a blueprint to define the change they wanted to make. They also met with local leaders and community organizations to help put their ideas into action.
Attendees told us they left these sessions uplifted, but we were the ones who came away inspired, hopeful that an emerging generation of leaders was stepping up to make their communities better. Leaders like Tiara Cooper, a single mother who lost her own mother as a teenager and has committed herself to making sure people in her community have better access to the things they need; Hanlyn Tyler, a student who is fighting for transgender inclusivity on their campus and beyond; and Danielle Carty, a young pharmacy technician who dreams of starting her own nonprofit to help her community manage high drug prices.
My Brother's Keeper Alliance
From Mantra to Movement
Five years ago, in the aftermath of the tragic killing of Trayvon Martin, President Obama called on Americans to recognize that we all have a stake in the success of our nation’s boys and young men of color. America could never live up to its potential or its ideals unless all its children had an opportunity to thrive. We are all our brother’s keeper.
Today, that mantra has become a movement—an Alliance of nearly 250 MBK Communities led by mayors and elected officials, tribal leaders, nonprofit heads, and private sector partners, all dedicated to breaking down the barriers that too often leave boys and young men of color at a disadvantage and clearing pathways that can lead them to opportunity.
In 2018, that work was centered around the voices of the young men themselves. We hosted online town halls led by young men sitting side-by-side with leading changemakers, whether it was Common speaking about criminal justice reform, Arne Duncan discussing violence prevention efforts in Chicago, or Dr. Sybrina Fulton discussing the legacy of her son, Trayvon Martin.
It was also a year of focus, with the Alliance choosing to prioritize where we could have the greatest impact, starting with the recognition that change starts and ends with communities. We decided to focus on place—identifying diverse cities, towns, and tribal nations that are devoted to our shared mission. We then chose two challenges to be the focus of our time and resources: reducing youth violence while providing a second chance, as well as ensuring all youth have access to caring adults and mentors that can help them navigate the path to success.
With that focus in mind, we launched a national competition to identify and invest in communities and community-based organizations that are measurably improving the lives of their boys and young men, either by making communities safer or helping young men thrive. After conducting a nationwide search, we selected 19 organizations in 15 communities throughout the continental U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Through our investment, we are helping scale effective programs to reach more young people in need, while also working with communities to identify and address systemic barriers that impede opportunity. We also wanted to highlight these organizations as national models that are making steady progress and have the potential to be proof points for what it takes to substantially improve life outcomes for boys and young men of color.
Identifying these communities and lifting up the leaders within them was a big part of 2018. But we didn’t want to stop there. We wanted to bring them together.
Arrive as Many, Rise as One
It was a moment five years in the making. In February of 2019, the MBK Alliance brought together hundreds of young men of color, along with the community leaders who serve them, in Oakland, California. MBK Rising! was the first meeting of the movement since the MBK Alliance became part of the Obama Foundation. It was a time to mark progress. To surface lessons that could guide the future of the movement. But most importantly, it was an epic celebration of our boys and young men of color
MBK Rising! was as much a revival as it was a convening—a chance to honor and encourage those engaged in this difficult but life-changing work. The event kicked off with a day of service, as attendees fanned out across the Bay Area to plant community gardens, organize books at libraries, paint murals, and clean up schools and classrooms.
The following day, several separate leadership tracks for young people, philanthropic and corporate leaders, elected officials, and community-based leaders came together with local guests for our first Main Stage session. It began with a native blessing and performance before John Legend held a powerful conversation with three icons of determination: Dr. Sybrina Fulton, Reverend Wanda Johnson, and Congresswoman Lucy McBath. All three had lost sons in tragic killings; all three have turned that loss into inspirational action, leading campaigns against gun violence and police misconduct.
Then it was time for President Obama to take the stage. Surrounded by the young men of the My Brother’s Keeper movement, President Obama and Stephen Curry from the Golden State Warriors held a wide-ranging conversation about the challenges they faced as young men and the lessons they learned as they matured.
The President answered questions from the audience and discussed the importance of modeling a more compassionate, more socially responsible, bigger-hearted version of masculinity. He talked about the importance of fighting against the systemic barriers that limit opportunity for young men of color. And, he even weighed in on Kendrick versus Drake.
We then fanned out over Oakland, with nearly 1,000 participants dining and talking at locally-owned restaurants, followed by a youth-only after party
The final day of the convening was no less stirring, as a gospel choir and grammy-award winning musician Fantastic Negrito kicked off the day, and attention shifted to the community leaders on the front lines of the My Brother’s Keeper movement. Activist Shaka Senghor talked about his journey from serving 19 years in prison to becoming a best-selling author, mentor, and activist for criminal justice reform. Community leaders from across the country spoke about innovative practices in violence prevention and mentorship and the significant impact those efforts have had on the lives of young men of color. Activists Alicia Garza and Ericka Huggins and Mayors Keisha Lance Bottoms and Aja Brown took the stage with other sisters of the movement to discuss the responsibility boys and young men have to girls, young women, and the LGBTQ+ community, and the need to push back against toxic masculinity. And Oakland’s own Ryan Coogler took the stage with frequent collaborator, Michael B. Jordan, to talk about the need for a new narrative and art that honors communities of color.
The event began the way it started: with the voices of the young men My Brother’s Keeper was established to serve. Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown sat down for an emotional and vulnerable conversation with four young men of color, discussing their journey to adulthood as they overcame obstacles, and advice they have for leaders to make a real and lasting difference.
What MBK Rising! demonstrated most was that across America, a generation of young men is aching to fulfill its promise. The question is whether we as a society will help clear the barriers standing in front of them.
Through My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and MBK Rising!, the Obama Foundation is investing in the organizations, the initiatives, and the leaders who are ensuring our boys and young men of color have a clear path toward opportunity.
Portraits of Change
Amidst the steady buzz of activity and energy at MBK Rising!, time stood still for a moment. A few attendees stepped into our portrait studio so that we could capture their photo and hear how they were building a brighter future for their communities. If there was one thing that united their stories, it was the sustaining joy they felt as they pursued this work.
Girls Opportunity Alliance
The Future is Only as Bright as Our Girls
On a crisp fall day, more than 600 girls from around the world gathered together in Rockefeller Center. They were there to celebrate the International Day of the Girl, a day declared by the United Nations in 2011 in recognition of the fact that global progress depends on the progress of girls around the world. But they also got a special treat: a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama and an announcement of a new initiative at the Obama Foundation that supports adolescent girls’ education around the world.
The Girls Opportunity Alliance (formerly the Global Girls Alliance) represents a continuation of Mrs. Obama’s work in the White House to ensure that girls everywhere have a right to learn. It’s a right that deserves far more protection: Today, due to social, economic, and cultural barriers, more than 98 million adolescent girls around the world are not in school.
We know that when girls get the opportunities they deserve, amazing things happen. Poverty goes down. Economies grow. Families get stronger. Babies are born healthier. And the world, by all accounts, gets better.
The Girls Opportunity Alliance is designed to kickstart this virtuous circle in countries around the world by supporting global grassroots leaders who are currently fighting to empower girls around the world. We are connecting these leaders so that they can learn from one another and extend their impact through collective action.
We’ve also made it easy for people everywhere to support them. Through a crowdfunding platform started in partnership with GoFundMe, anyone, anywhere, can support the education of girls in India, Guatemala, Uganda, and beyond. The fund has already received thousands of donations from all 50 states and more than 40 countries.
Obama Foundation Fellows
Twenty Reasons to Be Hopeful
When we put 20 outstanding, innovative civic leaders together in one room, we knew powerful things would happen. In the spring of 2018, we invited our inaugural class of Obama Fellows to meet for the first time, and to begin a two-year journey that would collectively push their work forward.
During the first year of the Fellowship program, the leaders have built on their impressive work in an effort to create transformational change. After meeting in Chicago and hearing from President and Mrs. Obama, they immediately established connections and found opportunities to collaborate. Later, amidst training sessions and guided conversations, they reflected on their first year together at the Obama Foundation Summit. In their first year, our Fellows have expanded their work and continue to model the powerful truth that each of us has a role to play in civic life.
Fellows Moussa Kondo and Sandor Lederer unearthed a powerful connection: both had strong, personal experiences with corruption that drove them to tackle the issue, though in different, innovative ways. Celina de Sola and Nedgine Paul Deroly drew a wealth of support from each other as they worked to overcome inequality in El Salvador and Haiti. And Clarissa Delgado and Veronica Crespin-Palmer bonded over their shared work of expanding education to alleviate poverty and trauma, even if that work happens a continent apart.
Each of our Fellows will continue their journey for another year, taking advantage of the individualized support, resources, and connections the Fellowship provides to deepen the impact of their work. In the second year of their Fellowship, they’ll begin to collaborate with and learn from a new cohort of 20 leaders—the class of 2019 Fellows. We’re excited to grow the Fellowship community from 20 to 40. We can only imagine the powerful things that will happen next.
Obama Foundation Leaders
Regional Leadership, Global Change
Every region in the world faces its share of challenges. But we also know that each region is home to tens of thousands of incredible emerging leaders who have overcome odds to drive real impact in their communities. These are the leaders we want to support, offering them targeted guidance and a connection to each other, so they can take their work to the next level. That was the genesis of the Obama Foundation Leaders program, which we first launched in the Summer of 2018 in Africa.
A Continental Shift
Why begin with Africa? You can’t talk about the future of the world without talking about the future of Africa. The continent is already home to several of the fastest growing economies in the world, with growing, youthful populations. Those demographics also make Africa the youngest continent in the world and therefore one full of promise.
We opened the applications for our Leaders: Africa program in the Spring of 2018 unsure of what to expect. Seventeen days later, we’d received 9,800 applications from every country on the continent.
In July, we convened 200 of our most promising applicants on the campus of the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa. The kickoff began with a conversation with Mo Ibrahim, a pioneer in African telecommunications and one of the world’s most prominent good governance advocates, hitting home the theme of responsible leadership that would resonate throughout the five-day event.
The second day began with a powerful call to action from South African advocate Thulisile Madonsela: “Don’t go it alone,” she said. “When spider webs combine, they can even tie-up a lion.”
Graça Machel, a champion of education, social justice, and ethical leadership and wife of Nelson Mandela, sounded a similar note, encouraging leaders to collaborate. “A profound transformation of the continent will be achieved when young leaders’ networks work together,” she said.
David Sengeh, an Obama Foundation Leader and the Chief Innovation Officer of Sierra Leone, led a session on innovation in government, where he also emphasized the importance of diverse teams, reminding participants that innovation could come from anywhere. And there was no better way to celebrate the communal spirit of the gathering than with a traditional South African braai, with the voices of the Soweto Gospel Choir serving as a moving, joyful backdrop.
The third day became a bittersweet one in retrospect. In what would be one of his final public appearances, the late Kofi Annan joined former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and former Algerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lakhdar Brahimi. “One is never too young to lead,” he told the audience, as he highlighted the need for dedication to a cause. “Change is a process. It can take a long time. It’s not an event.”
The final day was highlighted by a special town hall conversation with President Obama. He talked about the urgent need to engage in the work of change. And he urged those who were considering leadership positions to not lose sight of their goals.
But rather than end the gathering with his words, the President rolled up his sleeves and joined the Leaders in an act of service. The cohort traveled to the Far North Secondary School in Johannesburg, where the President helped the Leaders paint a mural, make benches, and beautify the grounds.
The service project seemed a fitting tribute to close out a phenomenal gathering—it occurred on what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.
Having laid the groundwork for partnership in Johannesburg, the Leaders embarked on a year-long journey of leadership training and network building. The Leaders have engaged with a suite of virtual programming that includes interactive webinars facilitated by experts and inspirational figures, bi-monthly group meetings to hold each other accountable, and group discussions that explore strategies and approaches for ethical and innovative leadership.
Together, these elements have helped build a self-sustaining community of leaders—one whose members lift up and learn from each other, engage in sincere self-reflection, and embrace an abiding commitment to bring positive change to the continent. Our hope is that they become leaders for life, staying deeply engaged with each other and the Foundation. As we said to them throughout the convening: “You are the ones you’ve been waiting for!”
Leaders: Asia-pacific Design Workshop
A Change in Context
Germany, Indonesia, Brazil, India, Singapore, New Zealand, the Netherlands, South Africa, and Hawaiʻi. Over the past two years, President Obama has met with groups of emerging leaders from all around the world. No matter the location, these town halls and roundtables reveal just how much unites local leaders pushing for change. Their dedication, their focus, their passion for making life better for others; it’s evident in every country.
And universal themes emerge as well, transcending geographical and cultural differences. People everywhere are concerned about big global challenges like education, climate change, public health, and ethical governance.
But the more of these conversations we had, the more clear it became that even when discussing global matters, local context mattered more. Working for change requires rootedness—an understanding of community and place.
That’s why we tailor our programs to those local contexts with local input. Rather than deciding how best to design leadership programs abroad, we want to hear directly from regional stakeholders already working for change on the ground.
So in January of 2019, we brought 21 emerging leaders from 16 countries and territories across the Asia-Pacific region together in Hawaiʻi to help us co-design our next regional leaders program, Leaders: Asia-Pacific.
The multi-day workshop consisted of hands-on design sessions, immersive group activities, and conversations with President Obama about the skills and resources leaders need to amplify and accelerate their impact.
The group also explored the rich history and cultural traditions of Hawaiʻi, and during a visit to the Mānoa Heritage Center, leaders were inspired to reflect on their own cultures and communities. Leaders completed their time in Hawaiʻi at a celebration with President Obama and local community leaders.
Throughout the workshop, the complexities of prominent issues in the region, such as climate change, indigenous rights, and government transparency and accountability continued to surface. Leaders discussed how cultural norms and traditions require young leaders to offer respect to previous generations, even as they push for breaks with the status quo. And they emphasized the importance of including Pacific islands—including Hawaiʻi—in the dialogue about the region’s future, rather than focusing only on large countries.
By the end of the workshop, they developed a set of context-specific recommendations that will be incorporated into the Asia-Pacific Leaders Program, which will launch later in 2019. We’re looking forward to expanding our global network of leaders pushing for change around the world.
Obama Foundation Scholars
A New Class of Changemaker
Ana Maria Gonzalez-Forero had found her calling. As the Chief Sustainability Officer of a foundation in Colombia, she works with indigenous communities to help them understand their rights and ensure that any developments that are built on their land are designed inclusively and benefit everyone. Having witnessed so many development projects take advantage of the land and resources of the people who’d lived there for centuries, she wanted to ensure everyone had a seat at the table.
Thousands of miles away in London, fate set Fatima Zaman on a different but clear path. On July 7, 2005, she was sitting in class when she heard the explosions from bombs that killed 52 people, the result of a devastating terrorist attack. The immediate chaos was terrifying, but it was the aftershocks that rippled through her Muslim community— the mistrust that erupted, the radicalization that surfaced, the cohesion that began to wear away—that convinced her to become a counter-extremist.
Obama Foundation Summit
Common Hope. Uncommon Stories.
Chanelle Bell was ready. Though she was about to introduce Janelle Monáe to the stage (something she called a “line on the resume moment”) and though she had just spent the previous two days attending the capstone gathering for the Community Leadership Corps, and though there were hundreds in the audience in Chicago and thousands more from around the world on the livestream, Chanelle wasn’t nervous and she wasn’t tired. She was collected. She was energized. She was ready. And she kicked off the 2018 Foundation Summit to a thunderclap of applause from a collective audience of hundreds of emerging leaders from around the world.
The Summit featured its share of notable names. Janelle of course, along with Zadie Smith, one of the world’s greatest living novelists. Orange Is the New Black actress Dianne Guerrero talked about translating her fame as an actress into a new role as an immigration and women’s rights advocate. And best-selling author Dave Eggers hosted a conversation with President Obama, where they discussed the power of the pen and their shared commitment to strengthening Chicago.
But it wasn’t the big names that shined at the Summit. It was emerging changemakers like Chanelle, who spoke on stage about the organization she founded to celebrate black excellence, Positively Melanin. And her fellow Community Leadership Corps member Emily Nordquist, who took the stage to talk about how her own experience with financial insecurity led her to offer financial literacy courses to marginalized communities.
Remember Obama Foundation Scholars Ana Maria Gonzalez-Forero and Fatima Zaman? They were both on stage, talking about how their course of study was preparing them to make an even bigger impact once they returned home. So was Kiran Sahu, the young woman from Lucknow, India, who fought to pursue her education with the help of a grassroots education organization. And David Sengeh, the Chief Innovation Officer of Sierra Leone, discussed how innovation can come from the most unexpected place.
And then there was Obama Foundation Fellow Nedgine Paul Deroly, who kicked off the closing session with a moving discussion of the power of place.
In Nedgine’s case, it was that power which drew her to her birthplace of Haiti, to help give every Haitian their birthright of a quality education. And in the Foundation’s case, it was that power of place that led us to bring hundreds of our program participants—whether from the Caribbean, the Congo, or Columbia, South Carolina—to Chicago. The place where President Obama first began his career in public service. The place where Michelle Obama was born and raised. The place where, together, they started their careers and family. And the place where they’ve chosen to build their Presidential Center.
For the hundreds of Summit participants, the Chicago experience began before the first speech. The day before the Summit, we organized dinners at iconic restaurants across the South and West sides of the city, so that visitors could break bread with our neighbors.
The morning before it began, we invited a local Chicago bookseller and coffee shop to set up pop-ups outside our auditorium, imparting some local wisdom and flavor to the proceedings.
And it was here—in this city that has long served as a crucible for social change—that hundreds of people with different stories joined together to celebrate their common hope: a better future for their communities.
What would happen next?
Our 2018 Financials
We spend every day trying to live up to our mission and we are grateful for the support and partnership of individuals, corporations, institutions, and foundations who share our sense of urgency and purpose.