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Highlights from the Obama Foundation Public Meeting

President Obama speaks on a microphone that is propped up on a clear glass stand with the Obama Foundation rising sun logo on the front.

Earlier this evening, Michael Strautmanis, chief engagement officer at the Obama Foundation, sent the message below to the Foundation's full email list. To get updates like this and other happenings, you can sign up for our email list here. 

During Tuesday’s meeting at McCormick Place, we received productive and inspiring feedback from the public  -- and we wanted to make sure we shared that with you.

Over the course of the breakout sessions, we heard what folks have liked about the process and plans for the Obama Presidential Center and surrounding campus -- and heard their concerns, as well. We heard what our neighbors are still hoping to see, and how you all would personally like to play a role in the Center’s activities.

Ultimately, as our surprise guest (Opens in a new tab) noted during his remarks:

"I want young people all across the South Side of Chicago, all across Chicago, all across America to be able to look at this Center and say, ‘This is a sign I count and this is a sign that I can change the world.’”

Highlights: Obama Foundation Public Meeting

Then, take a look at the feedback we heard below -- read through what we heard, and if you’ve got more to add, you can share it right here.

  • Residents were excited to take advantage of the Athletic Center, and sought assurances that additional track and field sports (like pole vault and shot put) and teams across the South Side would be able to make use of the facilities -- including those requiring accessibility accommodations.

  • Members from the Chicago Department of Transportation briefed attendees on updated road improvement plans and a traffic study. Participants raised questions about pedestrian safety and congestion in addition to inquiries about how road improvements will impact travel times in the area.

  • Chicago Park District representatives talked to guests about plans to relocate the track and field, and other improvements in the park.

  • In the economic impact session, participants and panelists discussed how building the OPC  will be a collaborative effort between the Foundation, City, local business owners, and community members. Attendees expressed a strong desire for well-established institutions and new partners to create jobs and apprenticeships for young people -- which Lakeside Alliance (Opens in a new tab) will be working to realize.

  • Our Museum and Programs team discussed the kinds of programming that will be available at the Center, how the Museum will be curated, and how the Foundation is working to make sure the campus will be accessible to everyone.

  • Foundation architects and landscape designers shared the changes that were made to the initial OPC designs based on feedback from the public, including making  the tower taller and slimmer and adding more windows. Attendee questions touched on accessibility measures and opportunities for partnering with the Foundation on art installations and exhibits.

Overheard at the meeting:

On the track and the park:

“...I look at this like an investment. The plans are great and the back and forth with the community is admirable. I echo the president. Let’s go. We can only talk for so long. We need to get shovels in the dirt.”

– South Shore Resident since 1970

A group of 4 people with various skin tones look at a model of the Obama Presidential Center.

On design and layout:

“[The Obamas] do not want it to be a retrospective-looking mausoleum, but they want it to be an expression of the hopes and aspirations of the community and those that are embodied in them.”

- David Simas, Obama Foundation CEO

An adult and child write on a large paper with the text "What do you want to SHOWCASE TO THE world?" in various styles of fonts.

We’re at a major milestone in making the Obama Presidential Center on Chicago’s South Side a reality. Thank you for being a part of this process and sharing your input and ideas along the way. Our team is listening and reviewing each and every comment, and we may share your feedback as testimony in our public filing process with the city to help us make the case for the Obama Presidential Center.

More soon,