As we reflect on this year, we couldn’t be more proud of the work of our global network of leaders who are tackling some of the most vital issues of our time and working together to strengthen their communities and our institutions.
Check out the highlights from our work in 2022 – from hosting our inaugural Democracy Forum to shine a light on how we can preserve and strengthen democracy around the world, to welcoming 100 college students who are committed to public service leaders into the Voyager Scholarship, to making progress on the construction of the Obama Presidential Center, which will be a physical manifestation of our mission. All of the work you see here is in pursuit of a better future, rooted in the Obamas’ belief that we can accomplish more together than alone. We’re glad you’re with us.
The Hadiya Pendleton Winter Garden
Mrs. Obama announced that the Winter Garden at the Obama Presidential Center will be named in honor of Hadiya Pendleton, a Chicago teen who was a victim of gun violence just eight days after performing with her majorette squad during President Obama’s second inauguration activities.
Welcoming our Europe and Africa Leaders
Obama Foundation Leaders are emerging changemakers who have demonstrated a commitment to advancing the common good in their respective communities. As part of our mission to inspire, empower, and connect people to change their world, we welcomed 36 Leaders from across Europe, and 35 Leaders from the African continent.
Futures Series at Hyde Park Academy
As part of our mission to give back to the community that gave the Obamas so much, the Futures Series initiative introduces high school students to a variety of career pathways through intimate conversations with accomplished leaders. Speakers included President and Mrs. Obama, Valerie Jarett, ABC News President Kim Godwin, and Mrs. Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson.
Mrs. Obama and the Girls Opportunity Alliance Host a Roundtable in Hawaiʻi
Mrs. Obama and the Girls Opportunity Alliance hosted a roundtable discussion in Hawaiʻi with eight students from across Oʻahu. The girls had a chance to ask Mrs. Obama questions about her own life, and they received invaluable advice on how to take care of themselves and grow their confidence.
Richard Hunt’s “Book Bird” Statue for the Obama Presidential Center
Art has the power to bring communities together and inspire change, and was an important part of the Obamas’ time in office. That’s why we were thrilled to announce that world-renowned artist Richard Hunt will create a sculpture called “Book Bird,” which will be housed outside the branch of the Chicago Public Library on the campus of the Obama Presidential Center.
When we see communities in need, we take action. We compiled resources for communities impacted by the ongoing war in Ukraine and shared the stories of our Leaders who are on the front lines of this conflict.
The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Mental Health Town Hall
To celebrate the amazing work our My Brother’s Keeper Alliance practitioners and organizations are doing in support of boys and young men of color, we took a moment to bring MBK communities together to discuss the mental health crisis impacting our boys and young men of color and the leaders that support them.
President Obama Returns Home to Support Young Leaders
To kick off a beautiful Chicago Spring, President Obama visited our University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholars, then stopped by Hyde Park Academy High School for a Futures Series talk, encouraging students to explore new career possibilities and reminding them of the role we can all play in making a difference in our communities.
President Obama Talks Disinformation at Stanford University
When democracies flourish, we all benefit. That’s why, in partnership with the Stanford Cyber Policy Center and the Obama Foundation, President Obama delivered a keynote address about disinformation and challenges to democracy in the digital realm.
Welcoming our Asia-Pacific Leaders
Coming after our Africa and Europe cohorts of Obama Foundation Leaders, we also welcomed 35 Leaders from the Asia Pacific. This program was created in 2019 and to date has built a network of 235 leaders, hailing from over 35 nations and territories, working across various sectors and issue areas.
The Marian Robinson “Opening the White House” Exhibit
On Mother’s Day, Mrs. Obama announced that the “Opening the White House” exhibit at the Obama Presidential Center Museum will be named in honor of her mother, Marian Robinson. Talk about a gift that can’t be beat!
The Eleanor Roosevelt Fruit & Vegetable Garden
In keeping with our honoree naming practice for the Obama Presidential Center, Mrs. Obama shared that the Fruit & Vegetable Garden at the Obama Presidential Center will be named after a First Lady and trailblazer she greatly admires, Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Voyager Scholarship for Public Service
President Obama and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky teamed up to announce the new Voyager Scholarship for Public Service. The scholarship provides 100 college students with financial aid to alleviate the burden of college debt, meaningful travel experiences to expand their horizons, and a network of mentors and leaders to support them.
President Obama Reunites with Jacob Philadelphia
President Obama reunited with the young man from one of his favorite photos. Together they revisited the iconic moment and discussed what Jacob will do next after graduating high school.
Curbing Youth Violence
In response to the murder of 16-year-old Seandell Holliday at Chicago’s Millennium Park, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance announced a nationwide call to action, Freedom Summer 2022. We introduced the Freedom Summer 2022 initiative to empower communities to create safe spaces for our boys and young men of color, particularly during the summer months.
Celebrating Pride Month
Dorjjantsan “Jack” Ganbaatar, a 2022 Asia-Pacific Leader, is a queer activist and a co-founder of the LGBT Centre Mongolia. For Pride Month, we spoke with Jack about his work identifying health care gaps for LGBTQ+ Mongolians and the power of queer representation.
President Obama on Strengthening Democracy in Copenhagen
President Obama visited Copenhagen to connect with Obama Foundation Leaders from across Europe and to deliver remarks on strengthening democracy at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit.
President Obama Drops by the Obama Presidential Center Construction Site
President Obama dropped by the Obama Presidential Center construction site in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago to check out how construction is coming along and to meet with workers on the ground.
Local Lunchbox Chicago
We introduced the Local Lunchbox Chicago pilot project, in partnership with the Shah Family Foundation Opens in a new tab, to connect local small food businesses with community organizations to serve delicious and high-quality meals to the community’s youth this summer. This program was an opportunity to spotlight the terrific community we call home, and the importance of helping all our young people thrive.
MBK London Exchange Program
Youth participants from My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Chicago teamed up with students from Ravensbourne University London and Vault 49 to celebrate culture and creativity through a cultural exchange program.
Ann Dunham Water Garden
To celebrate President Obama’s 61st birthday, we announced that we’ll honor his mother Ann Dunham’s life and legacy at the future Obama Presidential Center by naming the Water Garden in her memory. The Ann Dunham Water Garden, a space where families can enjoy a quiet moment of reflection and children can go for a splash, will feature a stunning new art installation from world renowned artist and architect and one of the President’s favorite artists, Maya Lin.
Bud Billiken Parade
The Obama Foundation and community members marched in the 93rd annual Bud Billiken Back-to-School Parade. We were glad to be back out there for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
President and Mrs. Obama’s Official White House Portraits
President and Mrs. Obama returned to the White House for the first time since leaving office in 2017 to unveil their official White House portraits together with the Bidens. These portraits will hang in the White House, enshrining President and Mrs. Obama in presidential history.
Welcoming our Scholars
The Scholars program at Columbia University and the University of Chicago empowers leaders with a proven commitment to service with the tools they need to make their efforts more effective, to identify innovative solutions to complex global problems, and promote change through values-based leadership. We were proud to welcome our latest class!
Celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day
In recognition of Indigenous Peoples Day, we connected with Obama Administration alum Mary Smith who was named the president-elect of the American Bar Association (ABA) Opens in a new tab. She is the first Native American woman to hold the role.
President and Mrs. Obama Visited Chicago to Check on Youth
President and Mrs. Obama returned home to Chicago for a series of events on the South and West Sides of Chicago, to talk directly with community members about the importance of youth leadership. President Obama also connected with local business leaders to discuss barriers to success, the impact of the Obama Presidential Center on the local economy, and ways we can all work together.
Let’s Get Her There!
To celebrate the launch of the Get Her There campaign, advocates and trailblazers Amal Clooney, Melinda French Gates, Marsai Martin, and other leaders joined Former First Lady Michelle Obama to talk about the barriers girls around the world are currently facing, and how we can all do our part to break down barriers and help Get Her There.
Obama Youth Jobs Corps
This year, in partnership with Urban Alliance Opens in a new tab, our Obama Youth Jobs Corps welcomed eight new interns. When Urban Alliance celebrated its 25th anniversary in October, Corps alumni Imani P. Muse and Austin Washington led a panel discussion with President Obama at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
The Obama Foundation Democracy Forum
We hosted the first-ever Democracy Forum in partnership with Columbia University and the University of Chicago. During the inspiring event, hundreds of global leaders connected and explored solutions to the pressing challenges threatening democracy around the world.
The following day, President Obama rolled up his sleeves to spend time with some of our Leaders from Africa and Asia-Pacific, as well as our Obama Scholars. He also met with our inaugural cohort of Voyagers alongside Brian Chesky. For many of our leaders, this was the first time they got to meet in person since the COVID-19 pandemic started!
Our Newest Program: Leaders United States
At the Democracy Forum, President Obama announced an expansion of our domestic work to support changemakers in the United States. The Leaders United States program will offer 100 U.S. based leaders the opportunity to learn new skills and tools to accelerate positive and lasting change in their communities. Applications for the new program will open in January.
From all of us here at the Obama Foundation, we thank you for all your support and wish you a joyous holiday season. Here’s to the work that lies ahead in 2023!