Sep 28, 2021
Barack Obama Presidential Library Groundbreaking in Chicago: Speech Transcript
The groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago took place on September 28, 2021. Read the transcript of speeches from Lori Lightfoot, J.B. Pritzker, Michelle Obama, and Barack Obama here.
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Speaker 1: (00:00)
The huge up swelling when president Obama was elected President. I think that that moment of hope will continue to arise in different people. You believe that it will do so when the building is built.
Speaker 2: (00:13)
We’ve been working on this project for over five years, and it is now that the ideas and vision become reality.
Speaker 3: (00:21)
It’s going to start. It started. It’s going to happen.
President Barack Obama: (00:26)
20 years from now, 30 years from now, I want young people all across the South Side of Chicago, all across Chicago, all across America, to be able to look at this Center and say, “This is a sign I count. And this is a sign that I can change the world.”
President Joe Biden: (00:52)
Hello, Chicago. It’s hard to believe that is was almost thirteen Novembers ago we gathered in Grant Park to take the first steps on an incredible journey. Each day since I think about the millions of people whose lives are better, a country that was made stronger and more equal, and the President and First Lady who made it all possible. With their dignity, their character, and grace, Barack and Michelle led by the power of their example.
President Joe Biden: (01:21)
They made clear a simple truth: that progress in our nation is not measured by a single presidency alone, as consequential as it is, it’s measured by all of us, by we the people, carrying the journey forward toward a more perfect union. It’s knowing that hope and change, not just slogans, or an expectation, hope and change is an ethos, a conviction. And that’s what today represents. It’s not just breaking ground on a new building. It’s breaking ground on the very idea of America as a place of possibilities.
President Joe Biden: (01:58)
Each day, people of every age and background are going to learn about this historic presidency. But more than that, especially for all the young people, you’ll be able to imagine yourself as the person who you dream to be. And with your own confidence and courage, you’ll know that you can do it. And you’ll know that in America, anything’s possible as you write the next chapter in the history of the journey of this nation.
President Joe Biden: (02:26)
What a gift to this great city. What a gift to our country. What a gift to the world. To Barack and Michelle, Jill and I are forever grateful for your friendship and your partnership. And I can’t wait for the Center to open, and to share memories of our incredible journey together. We love you guys and hope to see you soon.
Speaker 4: (03:26)
Please welcome Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (03:43)
Hello everyone. And thank you all for being here today. Today is a day for celebration and gratitude. We are here to celebrate an important milestone, the groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center. And we are grateful to former President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, for choosing Chicago to make what I know will be a transformative investment on this historic South Side of our beloved city. This groundbreaking marks the next chapter, and a journey that began several years ago. Took many twist and turns, but due to the perseverance, dedication, and hard work of many, we’ve arrived at this momentous day.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (04:29)
The Presidential Center, and complimentary investments my administration has made in the surrounding neighborhoods, will be bringing to life the promise of true equity and inclusion, investment and development on the South Side.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (04:49)
That’s why I’m beyond thrilled to be here to break ground on this incredible project, which will help create inclusive economic development and growth for our residents and our communities, and unlock their untapped potential. The Obama Presidential Center will among other things, provide a brand new museum, and library for residents and visitors alike to learn in, beautiful public spaces to gather in, immersive community programming to take advantage of, and of course, jobs that pay a living wage, and are prioritized for folks from nearby communities.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (05:25)
And to amplify the positive catalytic impact of the Obama Presidential Center, my administration in partnership with local alderman, and stakeholders, have made a number of capital and community investments in partnerships. This includes more than 200 million investment in Jackson Park, which will also generate good paying sustainable jobs for residents in the surrounding area, create more and better green spaces, improve connectivity and safety for pedestrians and bikers, and accommodate future traffic demands. In addition, our Department of Housing and Department of Planning and Development are implementing multiple community driven resources to set the stage for future private investment in areas in the footprint, and shadow, of this incredible Presidential Center. One of those resources is the Woodlawn Revolving Loan Fund. A part of the Woodlawn Housing Preservation Ordinance that will provide nearly 10 million in financial support to help rehabilitate existing housing stock, which will ensure that long term residents can remain in their homes and witness the revitalization of their communities firsthand.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (06:41)
Folks, with these investments, we will be helping bring into reality the vision that the residents of Woodlawn, South Shore, and Hyde Park have demanded, to make sure that the social and economic vibrancy of our city South Side remains strong and grows in years to come. We can’t imagine a future where you get off the L, or the Metra, to see a thriving 63rd street, and only go a short distance to visit a world class museum campus, complete with the iconic Obama Presidential Center, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (07:17)
This is the future of the South Side that we will be creating in partnership with the community. And this will not only send a ripple effect of economic development through the area, but really our entire city will benefit from these investments. Supporting our South Side communities and protecting its residents, is an effort that I am personally passionate about. And that means that we can’t get this done alone.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (07:45)
There are many people that I am grateful to on this historic day. I want to thank Governor Pritzker, and his team, for their support of the Jackson Park Infrastructure Investments. Countless city staff from a multitude of departments, parks, libraries, CDOT, housing, planning, development, water, buildings, to name a few, who have, and will continue to be the vanguard of these investment efforts in this community.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (08:13)
We must also humbly thank our many community partners, including alderman who are gathered with us today, Harrison, Taylor, and Mitchell, as well as the many organizations and individuals who number in the dozens from the surrounding communities. These community stakeholders have worked tirelessly for years, and we would not be here today without them. We must give thanks to them, one and all.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (08:41)
And of course, we must also thank the Obamas. Former President and the First Lady, and everyone at the Obama Presidential Center, and their team, for making this incredible project possible, and choosing to make it here on the South Side of our great city. I also want to thank the foundation board and staff, who have also been incredible partners on this journey.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (09:06)
With the construction of this Presidential Center that will officially get underway shortly, we will be able to deepen our commitment to empowering Chicago’s residents, and allow them to showcase the rich talent, and history, and culture, to visitors from nearby and far away. And above all else, ensure that they are fully able to participate in the economic development and future of this neighborhood, and the community, for generations to come.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot: (09:37)
I want to thank you all for being here. Thanks again to President Obama, and First Lady Michelle Obama, and we are excited on this historic day. Thank you all very much.
Speaker 4: (10:02)
Please welcome Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (10:27)
Well, good morning, everyone. What a thrill it is to be here in Jackson Park today, to mark this historic groundbreaking, and investment, on Chicago’s South Side. Thank you to all who have worked together to bring the second Presidential Center to Illinois, which means we are proudly now known as the Land of Lincoln and Obama. We do need to check with Secretary of State Jesse White about changing the license plates in the state, but we’ll get there.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (11:02)
I am privileged to welcome President Obama, and Michelle Obama, back to Chicago. I know that this city, and this state, hold a special place in their hearts, just as they hold a special place in ours. While this Center will be of a presidential scale, its presence, and purpose, still speak to the same community centered vision that have always defined the President’s work. And there’s no better home base than the community that you represented in the State House, and then went to the White House with.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (11:46)
Everyone knows from our history, from the great Chicago Fire in 1871, that Chicago is a city that knows the secret to rebuilding itself, meaningful investment, a good dash of ingenuity, and most important putting working people first. It’s a lesson that defines our COVID-19 recovery initiatives, and it’s why I’m proud to have the Obama Presidential Center as a partner in building a better future for the South Side, for Chicago, and for Illinois.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (12:22)
From leading with the first woman architect of a Presidential Center in United States history, to ensuring black contractors, and laborers, are substantial builders of this project, to paving a way for thousands of jobs, and billions of dollars in economic activity right here in Woodlawn, and surrounding communities, the Center will grow as the Obamas have lived, with work rooted in creating new leaders amongst neighbors, and bringing more resources to a community that has historically…
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (13:02)
… [inaudible 00:13:00] more resources to a community that has historically received less. By 2025, change makers from all over the world will come right here to learn about the Obamas’ journey, take advantage of transformative resources, and engage in celebration in community spaces, marking Jackson Park as an incubator for hope and progress for years to come. I’m particularly proud of our state’s contributions to these efforts. Reshaping and enhancing trails and roadways throughout the neighborhood to ensure that the center is an accessible and enjoyable space for all. President Obama, Mrs. Obama, Illinois is working to live up to the promise that you have stood for and the potential for positive change that will come from this new presidential center. As we recover from the pandemic, we are committed to building opportunities where there have historically been fewer. From building toward universal preschool and affordable childcare to providing rental and mortgage assistance to those who are struggling, to revitalizing our neighborhoods and our main streets.
Governor J.B. Pritzker: (14:24)
Today, with the groundbreaking of the Obama Presidential Center, like the state of Illinois, there is abundant opportunity ahead. I believe to my core that the best measure of our progress is opportunity. Opportunity for working families to achieve prosperity, opportunity for communities. Opportunity, it’s what the Obamas are striving to build right here on the South Side of Chicago and we are so proud to be your home.
President Joe Biden: (15:20)
To introduce Mrs. Michelle Obama, please welcome Zell Wilson.
Zell Wilson: (15:31)
Good afternoon. My name is Zell Wilson and I’m a junior at High Park Academy which is just across the street. The next speaker and I have a lot in common. She may not know this, but when she was serving as an Associate Dean at the University of Chicago, I was born at the University of Chicago’s hospital and we both attended Bouchet Elementary Math & Science Academy in the South Shore neighborhood, the community we call home. As a fellow girl from the South Side, she has been an exceptional example to look up to.
Zell Wilson: (16:11)
She knows firsthand that in our community, we value and care for each other. We look after one another, our families and our homes. We carpool, we share cooking. We share our stories and we believe in lifting up others as we climb. She’s taken those values with her throughout her life. She’s inspired me to be the best version of myself that I can be by using my voice and serving others. I’m reaching higher thanks to her. With my sights set on going to college to play golf and study to become an architect. All that being said, it’s with deep appreciation and bursting excitement that I welcome former First Lady, Michelle Obama, to the podium.
Michelle Obama: (17:16)
Well, let me just say that Zell, you are amazing, girl. You are my mini-me and you are making me feel underdressed. I am so proud of you. I am so excited to have been introduced by another girl from the South Side. Just keep doing you. This is why we are here. So very proud of you. I want to thank everyone for joining us to celebrate this special milestone as we are thrilled to be back in the city that we call home.
Michelle Obama: (17:52)
I’ve done a lot in my lifetime. I’ve earned a couple of degrees, had a short but meaningful career in the law, I worked in city government, I’ve run a small nonprofit. I met and married the love of my life. I have birthed and raised two amazing, now, young women. I have had the profound honor of serving as this nation’s First Lady where I’ve traveled the world, I’ve dined with heads of state, kings and queens. I’ve shaken hands with two Popes, but here’s the thing, no matter what I’ve accomplished or who I’ve met or where I’ve gone, one of my greatest honors is being a proud Chicagoan, a daughter of the South Side.
Michelle Obama: (18:49)
I still lead with that descriptor. I wear it boldly and proudly like a crown. See to my mind, this city, this neighborhood, it courses through my veins. It defines me at my very core. It makes me who I am. To this day, the experiences I had growing up in the city and in this neighborhood, all the lessons I learned in this very special place, they shaped my values and guide my actions every single day. I’m not just a daughter from the South Side, but a mother from the South Side, a lawyer and executive and author from the South Side, I am a First Lady from the South Side of Chicago. That is why this project is so incredibly important to me and my husband. It allows us to live out one of those values we learned right here, and that is to give back something big and important and meaningful to the community that has given us so much. For us, the Obama Presidential Center, means a lot more than just creating a space to house memories from our eight years in the White House. This investment, this substantial investment in the South Side will help make the neighborhood where we call home a destination for the entire world. More importantly, this project as the Governor and Mayor have said will be a vital resource for the people who live right here. The OPC will be a place where folks can find work, where kids can learn and grow and envision bigger lives for themselves, where families can walk and ride a bike, or have a reunion in the grass, where everyone can find calm and beauty and peace and safety. See when I was a little girl, even younger than Zell, growing up right here on the South Side, we didn’t have a lot of places like that in our own backyard.
Michelle Obama: (21:09)
I remember that whenever me, my mom, dad, my brother wanted to do something special, to see art, to hear music, take in a new museum exhibit, we had to get in my dad’s Buick 225, take Jeffrey Boulevard to Lake Shore Drive and head north to downtown. Even as a child, I understood this disparity. I understood that whenever there was a huge investment of resources in the city, new park or infrastructure improvements or any other beautification effort, it just rarely happened in our neighborhood. Now, we did have the Museum of Science and Industry, one of my favorite museums on the planet, by the way. We have that right here in Jackson Park, but the park itself, well, for the most part, it just didn’t call to us. It didn’t always feel like a place for kids like me. Too often, this gorgeous park felt like something to drive through or go around to get to somewhere else.
Michelle Obama: (22:24)
As I grew up and I left my neighborhood to attend Whitney Young, I gained greater exposure to this magical city. Riding hours, and I mean hours, every day back and forth on the number six Jeffrey Express, I was able to see more of what Chicago had to offer, but I continued to ask myself, why didn’t we have more places to gather and connect in our neighborhood? Why didn’t our part of town draw people from around the world, just like Grant Park or Navy Pier or the Art Institute? Why wasn’t there more investment in us? So, when it came time to decide where to build the OPC, Barack and I knew this was a unique opportunity to change that narrative, to help elevate the way kids like me, like Zell, felt about their neighborhoods and in turn about themselves because this center is not about us. It’s not about me and Barack, it’s about the generations that came before us. The folks who did that heavy lifting. The ones who made Michelle Robinson and Barack Obama possible. It’s about re-imagining this beautiful park. It’s about making it a place that welcomes people in, not just folks from around the world, but families like mine who live right down the street. It’s also about supporting the existing restaurants and stores, the neighborhood organizations, the schools, the churches that are the lifeblood of this community and therefore, the lifeblood of the city and the state. And not so long from now, when we are back here to replace these shovels with a big pair of scissors to open the center, and I long for that day, I can’t wait for that day. We will walk through a world-class museum. We will stroll down the beautifully redesigned pathways.
Michelle Obama: (24:37)
We will open up a playground with a state-of-the-art jungle gym for kids to climb on. Best of all for me, is that we will look out and see a big sledding hill for kids to slide down when it snows, which it still does a lot of here, something that I always dreamed about when I was a little girl. That’s what this is all about. All the hoopla, the lights, the temporary inconveniences. It’s about giving a little something back to the place that we absolutely, truly love. Because to me, this doesn’t feel so much like building something new, it feels like we’re helping to reveal what has always been here. I want to thank you all for joining us today, for supporting this project, to everyone who is doing the hard work of making this possible, for honoring this park in this corner of town, and making sure that it is seen and felt for generations to come. We can’t wait to see this place come to life. Thank you all so much.
To introduce the 44th president of the United States, please welcome Trenton Banks.
Trenton Banks : (26:20)
Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Trenton Banks. I’m a sophomore from South Shore International College Prep, and I call the Morgan Park neighborhood on the South Side my Chicago home. And it is an amazing honor to be with you all today. Like millions of kids across the country, I spent my entire freshman year at home, taking classes virtually. It wasn’t the way I thought it would be, but I held onto hope that it would and could get better if we worked on it.
Trenton Banks : (26:55)
It was the kind of hope that our next speaker transformed into a movement back in 2008, when I was just three years old. For my entire life, our next speaker has been a shining example of what can happen when your goal in life is to make a difference, no matter what’s going on or what’s happening. He reminds me of myself in that way. I’m not entirely sure what my future holds, but I know that I want to be and make a positive difference in the lives of others and to be successful in whatever path I choose. He’s taught me that if you want to change the world, there’s no better place to start than in your own community. And I’m just ready to do that. So without further ado, please join me in welcoming President Obama to the podium.
President Barack Obama: (28:15)
Hello, everybody. This day has been a long time coming. We had originally hoped to hold a bigger festive event, but the pandemic had other plans. So we’re keeping this small for now, but to everyone who is watching, including so many who were part of my administration, so many who’ve worked tirelessly to make this day possible, please know how incredibly grateful I am and how much I am looking forward to celebrating with all of you in person as soon as we can.
President Barack Obama: (28:57)
I want to start by thanking Trenton for that outstanding introduction and [Zelle 00:29:05] for doing such a great job introducing Michelle. I would like Zelle also to give me some tips on my golf game. We are so proud of both of you. And I also want to acknowledge a few other people here today who have been so instrumental. Our own governor of Illinois, Governor Pritzker, the mayor of our great city, Mayor Lightfoot, Alderman Leslie Hairston, and Greg Mitchell, thank you all for everything you’ve done to move this project forward.
President Barack Obama: (29:43)
So we are here today on the South Side of Chicago in Jackson Park to officially break ground on the Obama Presidential Center. As Michelle has noted, we chose this location for a few pretty good reasons. It’s close to where Michelle grew up, where I started my political career. It is surrounded by vibrant neighborhoods in a community where we believe we can help make a difference. Jackson Park also happens to hold a special place in my heart because it was literally my entryway into Chicago. In the summer of 1985, I packed up my car, which was a pretty janky car, from New York, and I headed west, a 23 year old kid about to start a new job and a new life.
President Barack Obama: (30:39)
And after I came off the Skyway, I found myself driving through Jackson Park. And at the time I remember thinking, this is a lot more beautiful than I expected. Admittedly, it was not winter and I had not yet tasted the Hawk coming off the lake. But at the time, I was still trying to figure out who I was, still searching for a purpose to my life. And it was in neighborhoods not far from here, where I began working with church groups in the shadow of closed steel mills, it was in communities across the city, from Roseland, to Pullman, to Pilsen, Little Village, North Side, where I learned that everybody’s got a story to tell, that beneath our surface differences, we have common hopes and common dreams and common values that stitch us together.
President Barack Obama: (31:48)
Chicago is where I found the purpose I’d been seeking. It’s where I finally put my ideas about democracy and activism and social change to the test. Most important, it’s where I met a brilliant, beautiful daughter of the South Side named Michelle LaVaughn Robinson. We were married here, had our reception right down at South Shore Cultural Center. Our daughters were born here, right down the street at the hospital. We bought our first home here, a few blocks away. It’s where I taught law and Michelle worked with students at the university and patients at the hospital. It’s where I announced my first campaign for public office, at what at least then was known as the Ramada Inn, on Lake Shore Drive. It’s where I first had the honor of serving constituents. All that happened within a few mile radius of here.
President Barack Obama: (32:58)
Chicago is where almost everything that is most precious to me began. It’s where I found a home. Now, obviously Michelle and I have been on a fairly extraordinary journey since then, one we could have never imagined all those years ago. But as far as we’ve come, I’ve never lost sight of some important lessons that I learned right here in Chicago. The first involves the power of place, the need to anchor our efforts to build a better world not in theories and abstractions, but in neighborhoods and communities.
President Barack Obama: (33:49)
You know, by now most people know that I come from a pretty diverse background. I was born in Hawaii. My parents are from Kenya and Kansas. As a child, I lived in Indonesia. I’ve got family whose gene pool stretches from Ireland to China. I’ve got lifelong friends who come from just about every corner of the world. And that background helps explain my core belief in the oneness of humanity, a belief in the God given dignity and worth of all people and the underlying bonds that we share. It’s why I believe America’s diversity is a strength, not a weakness, and that the only way we can solve our biggest challenges, from climate change to economic inequality, is if we recognize those common bonds and learn to work together across divides of race and religion and language and culture.
President Barack Obama: (34:45)
But as strongly as I hold to that belief, Chicago taught me the change doesn’t start on a global scale. Change starts one person at a time, one school at a time, one neighbor at a time, one community at a time. The internet and social media can connect us and raise awareness about issues that matter, but it’s only when we root ourselves in specific communities that we can understand the realities of people’s lives and their complexity. That’s where we build relationships and the trust that change requires. It’s how we test our commitments and our assumptions and we learn to navigate our differences and refine the strategies and programs that ultimately transform the world.
President Barack Obama: (35:46)
The second thing Chicago gave me was a faith that ordinary people working together can do extraordinary things. Rarely in our history has progress arrived from on high. The abolition of slavery, the expansion of the franchise, better working conditions, cleaner air and water, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, all these things gained traction because a critical mass of people got involved, got engaged, and came together to make their voices heard. And yes, that process can be contentious, as I’m sure the governor and the mayor are aware. It can take time, but in the end, it’s the most effective, most inclusive, most durable way to move the world as it is towards the world as it should be.
President Barack Obama: (36:44)
The idea of participation, of active citizenship, also happens to be at the heart of our American experiment in self-government. This country was built on the belief that any of us, no matter who we are, where we come from, how much money we have, what our last name is, any of us can recognize where our nation has fallen short, challenge the status quo, and pull America a little closer to our highest ideals. And that same faith and participatory democracy has overthrown tyrants and liberated countries, and delivered greater opportunity and freedom and dignity to billions of people around the world. So my experience in Chicago made me believe in the power of place and the power of people. Those beliefs guided me all the way through my presidency, and they have shaped our vision for the Obama Presidential Center. We are about to break ground on what will be the world’s premier institution for developing civic leaders across fields, across disciplines, and yes, across the political spectrum, a forum for those who want to strengthen democratic ideals and foster active citizenship, a campus right here on the South Side, where we hope to convene, support, and empower the next generation of leaders, not just in government and public service, but also those who intend to bring about change through the arts or journalism, or who want to start businesses that are inclusive, socially responsible, and responsible and responsive to the challenges of our time.
President Barack Obama: (38:38)
We want this center to be more than a static museum or a source of archival research. It won’t just be a collection of campaign memorabilia or Michelle’s ball gowns, although I know everybody will come see those. It won’t just be an exercise in nostalgia or looking backwards. We want to look forward. We want this to be a living, thriving home.
President Barack Obama: (39:03)
… want to look forward. We want this to be a living, thriving home for concerts, cultural events, lectures, trainings, summits, topical dialogues, and conversations. We want this to be a hub for in-house fellows with real world experience to share what’s working and what’s not in solving the big problems of the day. We envision this as a place where residents and visitors from all over the world come together and restore the promise of the people’s park.
President Barack Obama: (39:35)
So that will be the core mission of the center and our foundation programming, inspiring and empowering citizens and communities to act on the biggest challenges of our time, giving leaders, the tools they need to be effective, and preparing young people everywhere to pick up the baton and help change the world. And along the way, we want the Obama Presidential Center to change Chicago for the better.
President Barack Obama: (40:04)
This center will support thousands of jobs during and after construction, many of them right here on the South Side. It will help spark economic growth in this community by bringing as many as 750,000 visitors to this area, every single year. Visitors who will eat, shop, explore, and spend money, strengthening the south side and making it an even more attractive place for businesses to grow and to hire.
President Barack Obama: (40:36)
The center will also preserve and enhance all the things that make Jackson Park special, will reunify park land, plant new trees provide new habitat for birds and wildlife. But as Michelle noted, we are also going to open this park up to the community, creating a community rec center, another branch of the Chicago Public Library, creating new spaces for folks from the south side and all over the city to gather and to connect and to learn.
President Barack Obama: (41:13)
I’ll close by saying that, it feels natural for Michelle and me to want to give back to Chicago and to the South Side in particular. The place where she grew up and I came into my own, where our children were born, where we made so many friends, and where I launched my political career. We will always be grateful for that. And the Obama Presidential Center is our way of repaying some of what this amazing city has given us.
President Barack Obama: (41:51)
But we’re also building the center because we believe it can speak to some of the central struggles of our time, for we are through a moment of rapid disruption in technology, in the global economy, in our social arrangements, in our environment. And those disruptions can be scary. And too often, it feels as if our major institutions have failed to respond effectively to these disruptions, to help people find economic security or manage our differences or protect our planet. And what we’ve seen is that in the breach, a culture of cynicism and mistrust can grow. We start seeing more division and increasingly bitter conflict of politics that feeds anger and resentment towards those who aren’t like us, and starts turning away from democratic principles in favor of tribalism and might makes right. This is true in Europe and in Asia. It’s true in Latin America and in Africa, and it happens to be true here at home.
President Barack Obama: (43:10)
But the good news is, we can reverse these trends. I don’t believe it’s inevitable that we succumb to paralysis or mutual hatred, or abandoned democracy in favor of systems that reserve power and privilege for the few. As has been true throughout our history, I believe we have it in us to re-imagine our institutions, to make them responsive to today’s challenges and to rebuild our societies in a way that gives more and more people a better life.
President Barack Obama: (43:48)
And I believe it because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it in the work of young activists and social entrepreneurs right here in Chicago from the North Side to the South Side, to the West Side, from Oakland to Johannesburg, from Ho Chi Minh City to Rio de Janeiro from Amsterdam to Port-au-Prince. Around the world and right here in Chicago, there are young people who are not waiting for someone else to solve big problems. Instead, in the face of sometimes impossible odds, they are rolling up their sleeves and putting down stakes and making a difference, one neighborhood, one school, one community at a time.
President Barack Obama: (44:38)
They’re building health clinics in urban slums and educating girls in rural villages. They’re reforming policing and challenging corruption. They’re inventing new ways to cut carbon emissions and providing clean water to those who desperately need it. They’re building businesses on principles of equity and sustainability. And they’re giving workers a real stake in their company’s success.
President Barack Obama: (45:06)
This coming generation, this generation of Zelle and Trent and others, they are the source of my hope. It’s their imagination, their resilience, their embrace of diversity, their belief that every voice counts, their deep commitment to protecting the planet and challenging longstanding injustice that I believe will save all of us. And through this center, we intend to give these young people and those who are coming up behind them, whatever training, support, resources, and platforms, they need to fully realize their potential, to collaborate and share ideas, and to bring their dreams to scale. Michelle and I cannot imagine a better legacy than that. We cannot imagine a better investment than that. For this next generation of leaders in Chicago and around the world, we see ourselves. We didn’t start out in Washington. I didn’t start off as president. I started off right down the street. And the lessons I learned in these neighborhoods ended up shaping the rest of my life. The Obama Presidential Center is our way of showing young people everywhere, that they can do the same. And I could not be more excited to officially break ground and get us one step closer to making that vision a reality.
President Barack Obama: (47:03)
Thank you very much. Now we’re going to go grab some shovels and break some ground. Thank you, everybody.
Speaker 5: (47:27)
Speaker 6: (47:27)
Speaker 5: (47:27)
All right let’s go. Everybody, come on.
Speaker 6: (47:27)
Speaker 7: (47:27)
[inaudible 00:45:19] . Mayor [inaudible 00:45:19].
President Barack Obama: (47:37)
Are we ready? There are outstanding ceremonial shovels.
Speaker 8: (47:37)
President Barack Obama: (47:37)
Are you guys ready?
Speaker 9: (47:37)
President Barack Obama: (47:37)
Let’s step forward. All right. First one is just going to be sticking it in the ground. Ready? Go! All right, [inaudible 00:47:53] look up. [inaudible 00:48:00] smile. Is that a good one? All right. Now, we’re going to lift up the dirt. Yeah.
Speaker 9: (48:09)
President Barack Obama: (48:09)
That’s some nice dirt, by the way. All right. And now, I guess we’re going to toss the dirt up.
Michelle Obama: (48:09)
On three. One, two, three.
President Barack Obama: (48:09)
One, two, three. That’s it.