Read President Obama’s reflection on 2020, then see how hope led the way for our work and for our global network of leaders during an unprecedented year.
2020 was quite a year.
We’ve seen a global pandemic upend our lives; millions take to the streets to protest police violence; and a racial reckoning shed new light on the darkest chapters in our nation’s history. By any measure, 2020 was historic — defined by a series of moments that demanded our attention and demonstrated the power of a rising generation calling for change.
Today, we are still facing our share of challenges. The pandemic is still a global threat, America remains more polarized than any time we can remember, we’re continuing to grapple with the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and the gap between the rich and poor is only growing wider.
And yet, I’m still hopeful.
In a year of seemingly insurmountable challenges, a wave of new leaders has emerged. Young people from all walks of life have used their voices and talents to lift up their communities, protect their neighbors, support local businesses, and challenge us to reimagine a world that recognizes and protects the dignity of all people.
Their conviction reinforces why Michelle and I started the Foundation: to train and empower the next generation of leaders to pick up the baton and make change in their own communities. Young people around the world are discovering new ways to help make a difference, and the Obama Foundation is finding new ways to support their work.
This past year, we continued to meet our network of leaders and connect with our Chicago neighbors, and we transitioned our programming online. Through remote gatherings, we built community, tailored our programming in response to the pandemic, and provided additional spaces for our leaders to share solutions and keep each other going. Thanks to video calls, I was able to speak directly with groups that included activists in Europe, leaders of the Movement for Black Lives, and teachers and business owners on the South Side of Chicago. The common thread was a belief that things can get better if we come together, share ideas, and take action. For that, I couldn’t be prouder.
We also continued to make progress this year towards our long-term goals. Thanks to the years-long efforts of community organizers, residents, and Foundation staff, the Obama Presidential Center will break ground this fall in historic Jackson Park. It’s something I’ve been excited about since leaving the White House, and Michelle and I can’t wait to see how the campus will fill young people with the same sense of purpose we found during our time in Chicago.
From my early days organizing on the streets of the South Side to my hardest days in the White House, hope—the insistence that something better awaits if we’re willing to put in the effort—has guided my work. The stories you’ll read in these pages prove that hope isn’t just a tagline; it’s essential for moving people to action. And it’s at the core of everything the Foundation does to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world.