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Audacious Goals: Diversity and Inclusion at the Obama Foundation


September 29, 2017

By Jamie Clare Flaherty, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Obama Foundation

I was born in Detroit to an Irish Catholic father from Chicago and a mother whose roots extended deep into the Jim Crow South.  Their story was unlikely—their union even forbidden until just over a decade before their vows.  But, as unlikely as it was for these polar opposites to meet and fall in love, it was beyond comprehension that we would be standing together as a family on the National Mall one fateful (and chilly) January morning to witness this country’s first African-American president take the oath of office.

As the President raised his right hand, with it he elevated the hope of a nation. He made good on the promise once uttered by another civil rights pioneer who famously spoke across that same stretch of land...that the arc of the moral universe does, in fact, bend toward justice. And so, it is no wonder that next to being the daughter of my brave, loving parents—working for the Obama Foundation has been the greatest honor of my life.  

President and Mrs. Obama have said the Obama Foundation belongs to the South Side community. We, at the Obama Foundation, aim to be a standard-bearer for inclusion in all that we do. That’s why today we’re pleased to announce the next step in our efforts to ensure that our neighbors are part of the historic Obama Presidential Center process.

The Obama Foundation is requesting proposals for a Diversity Consultant who will help carry out our commitment to building the Presidential Center with a local, diverse workforce that taps into traditionally disenfranchised segments of the population including youth, ex-offenders, and the long-time unemployed.

Our Diversity Consultant will oversee contracting and workforce participation plans to ensure local residents, women, veterans, people with disabilities, individuals who identify as LGBTQ, and minority-owned businesses are not only hired, but supported throughout the construction process so that they might be better positioned to reap the economic benefits that will stem from the Presidential Center for generations to come. From start to finish this will entail an innovative approach to workforce development complete with unique training programs, outreach efforts, and connection to wrap-around social service providers where necessary.  The Diversity Consultant will work in tandem with our Construction Manager to seek out the best talent across the South Side, hiring diverse businesses and individuals to help build a world-class institution.

Inspired by my own parents, I am proud to be a part of a team that refuses to accept the status quo and is setting a new precedent for diversity and inclusion in Chicago and beyond in hopes of a brighter future for us all.