What the Obama Presidential Library can do for UIC

Michael Belmonte, Mikita Lee, Jauwan Hall, and Danielle Liebowitz

UIC students Michael Belmonte, Kris Fuentes Cortes, Jauwan Hall and Danielle Liebowitz in the Washington, D.C. office of Rep. Danny Davis. Photo: Michael Bonfigli


By Danielle Leibowitz

You may have heard by now that UIC is bidding for the Obama Presidential  Library and Museum, but do you know why we’re bidding and what the library could do for UIC?

For one, hosting any presidential library would be a great honor, but hosting this library in particular would be especially rewarding because of the statement it would make about our university. The Request for Qualifications (RFQ) put forth by the Barack Obama Foundation mentions a number of attributes — such as innovation, community engagement and a focus on service — that the host should be able to contribute, all of which happen to be at the core of UIC’s values. Thus, having the library would be tremendous affirmation of our efforts to excel in these areas, and would attract national recognition to the work that we do.

The Request for Qualifications also mentions that the host should be able to authentically portray the legacies of President Obama, which is where we believe UIC shines. The alignment between President Obama’s presumed legacies and UIC’s mission can be seen through actions both have taken to improve access to education, provide health care to underserved populations, better assist our veterans, present options for undocumented students, and support members of the LGBTQ community. This is a message we have put at the forefront of our campaign, and was expressed in our response to the Request for Qualifications as a “shared destiny.”


Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt

Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares and State Sen. Patricia Van Pelt review UIC’s bid for the Obama Presidential Library. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin

A group of UIC students, including myself, went to Washington, D.C., to further convey this message by sharing our personal experiences with legislative staff, the Barack Obama Foundation and the media.

In addition to affirming us as a leader in service and innovation, the library would also be a mechanism through which UIC could further its mission by helping to strengthen a neighboring community. You may know that UIC is partnering with the North Lawndale community for our bid, with one of our proposed sites located in that neighborhood. This provides great potential for economic development in the area, which would make a lasting impact on the community.

Finally, having the library would likely raise the level of pride in our students, faculty and alumni. Few institutions have the honor of hosting a presidential library, and being one of those few would bring great distinction, and open many doors for our university.

I encourage you to participate in our efforts to bring the Obama Presidential Library to UIC, so that we can show President Obama and the Barack Obama Foundation why UIC is the best place for the library. Even if it’s just by joining our Twitter campaign using the hashtag #UICisObama (yet another medium through which we are vocalizing our message of “shared destiny”), all participation makes a difference!

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