The Obama Foundation hit the ground running this year -- from launching a Fellowship program, to convening hundreds of civic innovators from around the world in Chicago, to hosting trainings for young leaders across the country. Most important, 2017 was a year of listening, learning, and experimenting to design the most effective ways to inspire and empower people to change their world.
On January 20, 2017, President and Mrs. Obama officially launched the Obama Foundation with a video to let everyone know what they would be up to once they moved out of the White House. They asked the public to head to Obama.org to share what they’d like to see in the future Obama Presidential Center, and what the Foundation should be thinking about in its early days. As Mrs. Obama said, “This will be your presidential center as much as it is ours.”
What makes me so hopeful, so optimistic, is that so many of you have shown up, dived in, and embraced the kind of active citizenship that makes our democracy work.
“I'm a high school student from Raleigh, North Carolina. Our school is one of the most diverse and one of the largest in our state, and it is one of my favorite places to be. Even though we're a bunch of teenagers from a variety of backgrounds and skin tones (at a school with a vast range of socioeconomic and demographic situations), we believe that if we choose to celebrate each other and work together, we can truly give life to our mission.”
Sam B., Raleigh, NC
Nearly 60,000 people responded to the first question we asked on Obama.org: “What makes a good citizen?”
International Women’s Day
On International Women’s Day, President Obama forwarded a message to the Obama Foundation email list from Sindhu Idicula, an educator from Texas, about the impact that Michelle Obama has made in her life.
“I want a different world. I need a different world.
So when you get back from your vacation, I wanted to let you know.
President and Mrs. Obama Announce Vision for Design of Obama Presidential Center
President and Mrs. Obama released the conceptual vision and site map for the Obama Presidential Center, an engaging place for residents and visitors alike to enjoy themselves, be inspired, and learn tools to make a positive change in their communities. This announcement marked the beginning of community conversations and input around the project -- the Foundation will continue to keep the community engaged in the process, from design to completion and beyond.
The single most important thing I can do is to help in any way prepare the next generation of leadership to take up the baton and to take their own crack at changing the world.
Economic Impact Assessment Release
The Foundation released an Economic Impact Assessment that estimates the potential economic impact that the Obama Presidential Center (OPC) will have on the South Side of Chicago, Cook County and the State of Illinois. It is estimated that the OPC will support thousands of jobs in the City of Chicago and the South Side during construction and first ten years of operation.
President Obama’s Visit to Berlin, Germany
On May 25, President Obama joined German Chancellor Angela Merkel and four young leaders for a conversation on the topic of “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally.” Set against the backdrop of Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, President Obama spoke about the role that young people will play in shaping a better future.
Launched a Landscape Survey
We asked Chicago residents to share their thoughts on their favorite aspects of Jackson Park, how they like to spend their time there, and what they would like to see improved to inform the OPC design process.
“I love having access to Forest Park, a large natural area within the Portland city limits. This park lets me relax, breathe fresh air, and reconnect with my thoughts without leaving town!”
Corinne H., Portland, OR
We asked people to tell us about their favorite parks, and nearly 500 people answered.
President Obama’s Visit to Jakarta, Indonesia
On July 1, President Obama met with young Indonesians to hear about how they are making a positive difference in their communities – and how the Obama Foundation can help support their work.
What’s Your Approach to “Digital Citizenship”?
Our Chief Digital Officer, Glenn Brown, asked the public to tell us about people or organizations that exemplify digital citizenship when it comes to embracing differences and the habits they want to change about their online life, and recommended practices. Nearly 500 people shared their approach to digital citizenship.
“Being a good digital citizen means presenting yourself online as you would in public. Think about how you want others to view you, how much you want to share with the world, and with whom you want to connect.”
Denise D., Bethesda, MD
Launched Video Series to Profile Active Citizens in Chicago
The Foundation launched a series of videos highlighting Chicago citizens who are creating change in their community. The first was a video about Jahmal Cole, who, while volunteering at the Cook County Jail, realized that many of the teenagers he interacted with had never left their neighborhood, and their worldview was limited. To address this issue, he started My Block My Hood My City, an organization that takes teenagers from under-resourced communities on educational field trips, exposing them to different cultures, professions, and cuisines.
President Obama’s Birthday
In honor of President Obama’s birthday, Mrs. Obama sent an email asking that in lieu of signing a birthday card, folks share their daily act of citizenship. Over 8,000 people wrote in.
“I am a stay at home mom to three kids ages 7, 4, and 1 and my 7 year old daughter has been expressing a desire to help the elderly so I recently signed up to volunteer to help senior citizens in my community from running errands for them, taking them to doctor appointments, cooking and cleaning.”
Tiffany V., Aurora, CO
Announced Slate of Programming
The Foundation announced several initiatives to empower and equip civic innovators and young people with the skills and tools needed to change their communities: The Obama Foundation Summit, Obama Foundation Fellowship, Obama Foundation Training Days, and the integration of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance into the Obama Foundation.
Launched the Obama Foundation Fellowship
The Obama Foundation Fellowship seeks to support outstanding civic innovators from around the world to amplify the impact of their work and inspire a wave of civic innovation. More than 20,000 people from around the world applied, and we will be announcing the inaugural class of 20 Fellows in Spring 2018.
Hosted Our First Public Meeting
As part of the Foundation’s ongoing engagement with community and other stakeholders concerning the development of the Obama Presidential Center, the Foundation hosted a public meeting in Chicago to receive community feedback on Foundation programming and on the Center. President Obama made a surprise appearance via live video to answer questions from attendees.
I want you to be my partner in this journey going forward again because I think this will be something that makes you just as proud as that night on Grant Park when we shattered some barriers.
President Obama Visited São Paulo, Brazil
President Obama met with young leaders in São Paulo to learn more about how they are making a positive difference in their communities — and how the Obama Foundation can ensure all young leaders have the tools and resources they need as they advance on their journey.
First Obama Foundation Pilot Training Day in Chicago
The Foundation hosted its first pilot training at the Gary Comer Youth Center in Chicago, bringing together over one hundred young people to kickstart their work in civic life and to become more active in shaping their own communities. President Obama made a surprise appearance to listen to attendees share their ideas about tackling challenges in their communities.
My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Became an Initiative of the Obama Foundation
President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper in February 2014 to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color. To scale and sustain its mission, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance was launched as a private sector entity in 2015. The My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, along with cross-sector partners, works to accelerate impact in targeted communities, mobilize citizens and resources, and promote what works — all with the goal of encouraging mentorship, reducing youth violence, and improving life outcomes for boys and young men of color. To ensure all young people can reach their full potential and as part of the Foundation’s mission to inspire and empower the next generation leaders, this work continues as a project of the Obama Foundation.
October 31-November 1
Hosted First Obama Foundation Summit
The Foundation welcomed civic leaders from around Chicago, the U.S., and the world to join President and Mrs. Obama for an inaugural Summit. During this two-day immersive event in Chicago, hundreds of emerging leaders came together to exchange ideas, explore creative solutions to common problems, and experience civic art, technology, and music from around the world. Summit participants attended five main stage sessions with talks on topics ranging from motivating young people to choose a civic path to technology’s role in creating equitable and inclusive communities. The Summit also included breakout sessions, which provided attendees with the opportunity to dive deeper into these topics, engage directly in conversation, and learn new skills.
“A good citizen does what is best for the people living inside and outside their country no matter what. They are the soldiers to peace and prosperity to make sure America is doing their job of giving back right.”
Sindhu Idicula and Ryan McCune wrote letters to the Foundation earlier in the year, and they were invited to attend the Summit.
Ordinary people in local communities can do extraordinary things when they are given the chance.
Prince Harry and Michelle Obama stop by Hyde Park High School on the South Side of Chicago.
As a closing event for the first Obama Foundation Summit, the Foundation hosted a Community Event at the Wintrust Arena at DePaul University. The event was curated by Chance The Rapper, and featured artists and performers such as Gloria Estefan, The National, and Lin-Manuel Miranda. The event brought together thousands of people to celebrate civic leaders making a difference around the world and inspire those in attendance and watching live to make a positive impact in their own communities.
“As part of my renewed and ongoing commitment to community engagement I will attend as many community working group meetings to update Washington DC’s 'Sustainable DC Plan' as I can.”
Ashton R., Washington, DC
Second Obama Foundation Pilot Training Day in Tempe
On Saturday, November 11, the Obama Foundation hosted its second pilot training at Arizona State University’s Student Pavilion in Tempe, bringing together hundreds of young people to kickstart their work in civic life and to become more active in shaping their own communities.
Third Obama Foundation Pilot Training Day in Boston
The Foundation hosted its third and final pilot training of 2017 at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center at Roxbury Community College in Roxbury, Boston, bringing together over 150 young people to kickstart their work in civic life and to become more active in shaping their own communities.
“I spent a month traveling through Tanzania and shared some of the most amazing memories and meals with those who were willing to let me into their lives and culture. While the food was delicious, I found it was the act of giving and accepting that broke barriers and established the trust I was yearning for.”
Nicholas V., St. Peter, MN
This holiday season, we asked our users to tell us about a time they found common ground over a shared meal. Over 1,000 people responded.
Town Hall with President Obama in New Delhi, India
The Foundation hosted a Town Hall in New Delhi, India with President Obama and hundreds of young Indian leaders from across the country. The Town Hall expanded the conversation about what it means to be an active citizen and make an impact — and how the Obama Foundation can support emerging leaders in this effort.
Our 2017 holiday card celebrated our Chicago roots and our hopeful mission to train and empower the next generation of leaders. Designed by GERTRUDE, Inc. — a design firm based on the South Side of Chicago — the card features a photo by Chicago-area photographer Brian Kersey of Anish Kapoor’s 2004 work, Cloud Gate. Check out the inside of the card here.
President Obama Sends a Holiday Message
Looking forward to the new year, President Obama shared a message with the Obama Foundation email list highlighting the people who chose to stand up and make their world better in 2017 and his belief that each of us can make a difference, and all of us ought to try. Read the message here.
You only need one person speaking with conviction, speaking with courage, and yes, with optimism, and you’re going to change some minds.