Obama Library proposal ‘Signed, Sealed, Delivered’

OPL North Lawndale

Sumner students rally for the Obama Presidential Library. “We believe that the next great champion could begin right here,” two students said. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services


The proposal from UIC and its North Lawndale community partner for the Obama Presidential Library and Museum was “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” Thursday at a lively rally with NBA Hall of Famer and business leader Isiah Thomas, UIC and North Lawndale community leaders, local aldermen and 350 schoolchildren.

OPL North Lawndale

NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas stressed the value of “making it to the finals.” Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

The students at Sumner Math & Science Community Academy, across the street from the Lawndale site,  wore Obama T-shirts and danced to the Stevie Wonder song amid balloons and posters portraying the neighborhood and the library. They pledged allegiance to the flag, then sang their school song.

“We believe that the next great champion could begin right here,” Sumner students Zyon and Zyire Nichols read from a prepared statement. “This would bring hope for a better community and uplift the next generation.”

“I knew we’d make it to the finals. I happen to have a pretty good record in the finals,” Thomas said.

Marcus Betts of the North Lawndale Presidential Library Committee recalled how the neighborhood’s commercial streets thrived before 1968. “We want to return to that. North Lawndale doesn’t want this library; North Lawndale NEEDS this library,” he said.

Alfred Tatum, dean of the College of Education and a member of the proposal committee, said he was moved by the spirit of the students and residents.

“This is not just about the president’s story, it’s about creating your own stories,” he said. “That’s what is essential to preserving the president’s legacy.”

UIC and its North Lawndale community partner submitted a comprehensive proposal to host the Obama Presidential Library Thursday to the Obama Foundation. The proposal outlines a vision for creating an east-west cultural and civic corridor extending from the lakefront Museum Campus through UIC to North Lawndale, uniting and serving community and academic purposes and establishing dramatic new public green spaces throughout the corridor.

UIC is one of four finalists for the future museum, along with University of Chicago, Columbia University and the University of Hawaii.

The Obama Foundation will share its recommendations with the president and first lady, who will make the final decision in early 2015. The Obama Presidential Library will be part of the presidential library system, which includes 13 libraries in the National Archives and Records Administration. It will preserve and make available to the public the papers, records and other historical materials that document the lives of the president, his family, associates and administration.

The library would operate through an endowment provided by the foundation and federal funding.


Videography by Sonya Booth

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