The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and North Lawndale are honored to be among four finalists selected by the Barack Obama Foundation to host the Barack Obama Presidential Library. Our proposal seeks to re-imagine what a presidential library can become, asking not simply where the Library should go, but rather what it can do. We offer a vision where the Library is not on a site, but of a site — where the energy of the city enters the Library and the knowledge and discourse instigated within moves out to the city, the nation, and the world.
We present a networked site central to the story of progressive politics in America.
Corresponding to three rings emanating west from the Chicago Circle Interchange — centerpoint of the 1909 Burnham Plan of Chicago and home of the social settlement movement of the Jane Addams Hull-House — and extending five miles to North Lawndale, the Chicago neighborhood that served as the northern base of the Civil Rights movement established in 1966 by Martin Luther King Jr. Our proposal identifies three locations on this historic westward axis: the academic campus of UIC, the medical campus of UIC, and a proposed community campus in North Lawndale. Each is a signature location emblematic of the various stories that the Library will be able to tell about imagination, engagement, and broad access to the resources of well-being and growth that a healthy democracy requires.
More than a Library, our proposal offers an Obama Plan for 2016.
The geographic coincidence of our site suggests that the Barack Obama Presidential Library can function as a political and economic catalyst to reanimate large-scale urban thinking in Chicago. By weaving together the President’s story with UIC and North Lawndale, a central ambition of our proposal is to bring together disparate stories — of individuals, communities, and institutions — to forge a new identity that combines the bold urban vision of Daniel Burnham with the models of participatory engagement of Jane Addams and Martin Luther King Jr. And this ambition to connect what has been previously held apart historically, conceptually, geographically, and economically, stems from our conviction that this act of recombination is what makes change possible.
Barack Obama, UIC and North Lawndale share a destiny of transformation.
Our president is young, our university is young. UIC is a public institution with a mission to provide access to excellence among diverse constituencies and to reduce disparities. The promising community of North Lawndale continues to be home to diverse peoples with the impacts and issues of 1968 still lingering. Together we share qualities of determination and resolve and the aspiration to do great work, knowing our greatest achievements are still to come.