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President Obama announces programs wing at the Obama Presidential Center


The Obama Foundation is thrilled to share details about the Obama Presidential Center Programs Wing, a dynamic homebase for leadership and a space where hope will become action.

The Programs Wing, named the Democracy in Action Lab (DIAL) and made possible by a transformational grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), will be the epicenter of the Obama Foundation’s commitment to community and program resources at the intersection of democracy and leadership development, a space to enrich young leaders in the neighborhood and around the world.

Located on the Lower Level of the Forum Building, which is envisioned as the community action arm of the Center, the Democracy in Action Lab will offer space to host workshops, community gatherings, small group conversations, speaker series, large-scale events, and more. Rooted in our belief in democratic engagement and community empowerment, the Democracy in Action Lab will offer school groups and community partners a venue for values-aligned programming and events. It will also act as a gathering location for emerging leaders in our network of global changemakers.

“It will take imagination and courage to create the truly public spaces for dialogue and civic engagement this era of polarization and disruption demands,” said SNF Co-President Andreas Dracopoulos. “We need to ensure that those spaces are welcoming and inclusive. The Obama Presidential Center is thoughtfully doing this work, imagining a new paradigm for what a public forum for civic engagement and civil discourse can look like on the South Side of Chicago, and SNF is proud to be a part of the effort.”

Designed to invite creativity and collaboration, seven multi-purpose program rooms within the Democracy in Action Lab will offer space for a range of activities with built-in cutting-edge technology, white boards, and flexible tables and seating to allow for a variety of set-ups. These rooms will be a lively hub of action, bringing together community members and Foundation program participants to be inspired and empowered to change their world.

The Foundation is proud to announce generous donations from individuals and corporate and foundation supporters who have stepped up to help us realize our vision for this space. In keeping with the Foundation’s commitment to honor the people on whose shoulders we stand, we invited donors to celebrate a leader, public servant, or changemaker through the naming of these programmatic spaces.

“It is our hope that when people visit the Obama Presidential Center, they will feel inspired by the extraordinary leaders who helped create a more perfect union and on whose shoulders the Obamas, and so many others, stand,” said Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett. “We are deeply grateful to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and our partners for their generous support in helping us honor those leaders by creating these unique spaces.”

Two of those rooms, dedicated by the McDonald’s Corporation and the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, respectively, will honor trailblazing leaders in business: Herman Petty, McDonald’s first African American owner-operator, who purchased his first McDonald’s store in 1968 across the street from the future Presidential Center, and Reginald F. Lewis, the first African American to build a billion dollar, multi-national company. The W. K. Kellogg Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will honor leaders in the pursuit of equality, truth, and racial healing, naming program rooms after Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells, respectively.

Beyond the program rooms, there will be two courtyards within the Programs Wing, which will provide natural light and beauty meant to facilitate reflection, relaxation, and deeper connection. The Harriet Tubman Courtyard, named by donor Karla Jurvetson, will celebrate Tubman’s legacy as an abolitionist, women’s suffrage activist, and conductor of the Underground Railroad. The Irving B. Harris Courtyard, named by donor Joan Harris, will honor the businessman and philanthropist whose work promoted social justice, human rights, and the arts and humanities.

The Programs Wing is a physical representation of our core Foundation values, a living, breathing articulation of our mission.

A rendering of the Obama Presidential Center shows the plaza of the campus.

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The Obama Presidential Center will feature a world-class museum and public gathering space on the South Side of Chicago.

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