A year of hope.
A year of action.
Revisit the highlights from our work in 2021, which included breaking ground on the Obama Presidential Center, recognizing important milestones from President and Mrs. Obama’s time in office, empowering and connecting leaders around the world, and more.
Groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center Set to Begin
After the completion of a careful federal regulatory review process, we cleared the way to break ground on the Obama Presidential Center. President Obama shared a special video message to mark the milestone.
“The Center will create jobs and economic opportunity, especially for South Side residents. We believe the team that's building the Center should reflect the community.” —@BarackObama pic.twitter.com/ztjNIAJEG9
— The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) February 4, 2021
The Power of Art in the Obama White House
We revisited the art created by Black artists that the Obamas welcomed into the halls of the White House during their time in office.
Marking the End of the Leaders Europe Program
At the conclusion of our six-month inaugural Leaders Europe program, the group of 35 leaders joined President Obama to talk about activism, inspiration, and building a sustainable future. Mrs. Obama also shared a special farewell message with the class.
Reimagine Policing: Progress to Date
In the summer of 2020, President Obama issued a pledge for mayors and city officials to review their use of force policies. Nearly a year later, the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance released the Reimagine Policing report to see how pledgetakers fared.
You Are America
56 years after marchers armed only with their courage crossed a bridge in Selma, Alabama, determined to fight for a more just future—we unveiled the quote that will appear on the exterior of the Museum at the Obama Presidential Center. The quote mirrors the narrative of the Museum, telling the story of the Obama administration within a broader contextual history, where moments like Selma form the building blocks of American democracy making possible the election of America’s first Black President.
A New Pipeline for Talent to Build the Obama Presidential Center
We launched the Obama Presidential Center Construction Workforce Initiative to create an inclusive construction workforce trained with skills to build the Center, and create a diverse pipeline of talent that can be funneled to construction projects across the city of Chicago.
Mrs. Obama at POPSUGAR: Girl Talk
Mrs. Obama joined a star-studded lineup of empowering women for POPSUGAR’s Girl Talk event.
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) March 8, 2021
Get Vaccinated, America.
When President and Mrs. Obama joined former presidents Bush, Clinton, and Carter in encouraging Americans to get their COVID-19 vaccines, we were excited to help spread the word.
The best way to protect not only your own health, but the health of your family, friends, and community is to get the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine when you can. pic.twitter.com/QumVOjC4QR
— The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) March 11, 2021
Eleven Years of the Affordable Care Act
In honor of the Affordable Care Act’s eleventh anniversary, we revisited President Obama’s reflection on the moment. We also explored how the ACA still positively impacts the lives of millions of Americans by sharing the story of Asia Pacific Leader Kealoha Fox.
Construction Work Begins on the Obama Presidential Center
Marking the official kickoff of the Obama Presidential Center’s Road to Groundbreaking—a celebration of Chicago and everyone who is helping us make this dream a reality—the City of Chicago began pre-construction work onsite in Jackson Park. Mayor Lightfoot and JB Pritzker joined Foundation leadership for a press conference to discuss the milestone.
Earth Day: Explore Sustainability at the Center
Fundraising at the Obama Foundation
We have ambitious plans, and we’re thankful to the generous supporters from around the world who have chipped in to bring us closer to our $1.6 billion fundraising goal to fuel the Foundation’s pursuit of its mission to inspire, empower, and connect the next generation of leaders and bring the Obama Presidential Center to the South Side of Chicago. To date, we’ve raised over $1 billion towards our goal!
America Hadn’t Forgotten
Around the tenth anniversary of the operation against Osama bin Laden, Ben Rhodes moderated a candid conversation between President Obama and Admiral William McRaven, the commander of the special operations forces who took part in the raid.
President Obama Reflects on the Year Since George Floyd’s Murder
President Obama joined My Brother’s Keeper Alliance youth and community leaders to discuss the unprecedented activism since George Floyd’s murder the year before.
The MBKA Leadership Forum
The My Brother’s Keeper Leadership Forum was a two-day virtual gathering of MBK Communities. During the event, guests celebrated progress, shared best practices from communities with proven success, and spotlighted what works. The MBK Equity Framework was also released.
A New Hub for Construction Updates
We’re building the Obama Presidential Center in partnership with the community and with City agencies, including the Chicago Department of Transportation, the Chicago Park District, and the Department of Planning and Development. To help our neighbors find the latest updates on construction, we created a new hub featuring updates from these groups and the Obama Foundation team.
A Day in the Life of Zahrah Hill
Chicago’s boundless talent, and her story of working in the trades is sure to inspire, and we’re thrilled that she could work on the Obama Presidential Center and other big projects across the city.
President Obama, Anderson Cooper, MBK Youth, and all the Feels
As part of a multi-segment CNN special with Anderson Cooper, President Obama met with young men from Youth Guidance’s Becoming a Man program for a conversation about leadership, legacy, and fatherhood. President Obama first met some of these young men back in 2013, just before launching the My Brother’s Keeper initiative.
The Obama Portraits Start National Tour in Chicago
The Art Institute of Chicago welcomed the Obama Portraits over the summer. The portraits’ stay at the Institute marked their first stop on a five-city tour across the country organized by the National Portrait Gallery. As part of the homecoming, the portraits were featured on Art on the Mart and Mrs. Obama joined a conversation with Amy Sherald moderated by Thelma Golden.
Celebrating World Refugee Day
On World Refugee Day, we shared the remarkable conversation between Wael Habbal and Sofia Kouvelaki, two of our European Leaders who are committed to helping refugees in Greece build inclusive, dignified lives.
President Obama’s Summertime Chi Visit
As part of our continued Road to Groundbreaking, President Obama returned to Chicago for a summertime visit, during which he surprised the Wolfpack youth football team and stopped by a small gathering of local business owners at South Shore Brew, a local coffee shop in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago.
It’s great to be back in my hometown and even better to spend some time with talented young people in Jackson Park. I’m proud of the Wolfpack for a terrific season, and for their leadership off the field as well. Thanks for letting me give a guest pep talk! https://t.co/md3qjvffxY
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 2, 2021
Remembering Rep. John Lewis and CT Vivian
In remembrance of the civil rights icons Rep. John Lewis and CT Vivian, we celebrated their inspiring leadership and the legacies of social action and good trouble that are still pushing young organizers to take action today.
Happy 60th President Obama!
This year, you helped us give President Obama the ultimate birthday gift: taking 60 seconds or 60 minutes to serve your community.
As part of our celebrations for President Obama’s birthday, you helped us give him the best gift: Your story. We asked you to share how you’ve spent 60 minutes—or even 60 seconds—giving back to your communities—and you didn’t disappoint.Check out some of the inspiring stories:
— The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) August 9, 2021
Breaking Ground on the Obama Presidential Center
After years of hard work, dedication, and endless support from our Chicago neighbors and caring people all around the world, we broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park! President and Mrs. Obama also took time to speak with Chicago Public Schools students and our Obama Scholars at the University of Chicago, and even surprised our workforce partner Chicago Women in Trades.
We were thrilled to welcome our fourth cohort of Obama Scholars for the 2021-2022 academic year. The two groups of 12 emerging leaders from around the world study at Columbia University and the University of Chicago, respectively.
Rest in Power, Timuel Black
Timuel Black was a historian, author and civil rights activist, who happened to share organizing tips with a young man named Barack Obama. A friend and trusted advisor, Tim was a vocal supporter of the Obama Presidential Center calling the South Side home. We miss him dearly. Explore more of his remarkable life here.
Girls Opportunity Alliance Steps Up to Support Girls in Afghanistan
Girls in Afghanistan continue to face danger and significant barriers to their education. In response to this critical moment, the Girls Opportunity Alliance launched the Afghanistan Relief Fund to support on-the-ground organizations.
— Girls Opportunity Alliance (@girlsalliance) October 21, 2021
Celebrating International Day of the Girl
To celebrate International Day of the Girl, Mrs. Obama and her friends Kerry Washington, Orlando Bloom, Shonda Rhimes, and Brie Larson opened their Instagram feeds so young women from the Girls Opportunity Alliance could share their remarkable stories.
Happy International #DayoftheGirl! Today I’m celebrating the promise that exists within every girl. When we invest in that promise, we empower them to change their communities for the better. Join me and the @GirlsAlliance in supporting girls’ education: https://t.co/dwyLjHlyo7 pic.twitter.com/mVYsPN8onA
— Michelle Obama (@MichelleObama) October 11, 2021
The Best Shot to Save the One Planet We’ve Got
To mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement taking effect, we asked ten people—Obama Administration alumni, Obama Foundation leaders on the front lines of the climate fight, and President Obama himself—to reflect on the path to Paris and the work that remains to address the climate crisis.
COP26: Charting the Future of Climate Action
During his appearance at COP26 in Glasgow in November, President Obama met with a group of emerging leaders from across our programs to discuss how to work together long after returning home from COP26 to push for progress beyond the commitments made during the week-long summit.
Celebrating Veterans Day
University of Chicago Obama Foundation Scholar and Marine Corps Vet Tom Voutsos is helping close the wealth gap by providing an alternative pathway to homeownership in the Midwest. For Veterans Day, we spoke with Tom about his inspiring journey.
Reintroducing the Leaders Program
Our regional Leaders program is back after we developed new ways to welcome leaders into our global network as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. As a part of the shift to an online environment, we’re making sure our participants get an enriching experience by working with a smaller cohort size of 35 leaders, down from 200, so we can offer more individualized support and growth opportunities.
We were thrilled to welcome 35 emerging leaders from across the African continent as part of the 2022 Leaders Africa cohort.
Join us in welcoming the newest class of #ObamaLeaders from across Africa! Focusing on a broad range of issue areas from public health to women’s rights—these leaders are ready to work together to address their communities' most pressing needs. https://t.co/tmLZKGJ3Iu pic.twitter.com/XjtjFm6IIu
— The Obama Foundation (@ObamaFoundation) November 16, 2021
The Obamas Return to Chicago
After our exciting groundbreaking celebrations, President and Mrs. Obama were back in Chicago for 44 hours to show some holiday gratitude to the people and programs taking on some of the biggest issues in the community we call home.
Honoring Heroes at the Obama Presidential Center
We are proud to bring more inclusivity to the philanthropic naming process. A number of key spaces at the Obama Presidential Center will be named in honor of civil rights and social justice leaders who pushed America to live up to its founding ideals. A range of philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and organizations donated and named spaces in honor of trailblazers including Rep. John Lewis, Elie Wiesel, Mae Jemison, Eleanor Roosevelt, and more.
Responding to Communities in Need
When we see communities in need, we take action. As millions of people grappled with hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, political instability, even disturbing discriminatory attacks, we put our mission into action by sharing resources and the stories of community members who stepped up to care for their neighbors when they needed it most. You can still do your part to support Americans impacted by a devastating string of tornadoes. Take action.
Seasons Greetings from the Obama Foundation!
From all of us here at the Obama Foundation, we thank you for all your support and wish you a hope-filled and restful holiday season. Here’s to the work that lies ahead in 2022!