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The winner of the Obama presidential library: Chicago or Hawaii?

March 18, 2013|By Hector Tobar
  • President Obama was born in Hawaii but lived most recently in Chicago before the White House.
President Obama was born in Hawaii but lived most recently in Chicago before… (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated…)

Future historians of the Barack Obama presidency, where would you rather travel? To that perpetually sunny corner of Polynesia where our 44th president was born? Or to the windy city on Lake Michigan he most recently called home?

Barack Obama’s second and last term doesn’t end until Jan. 20, 2017. But university officials and civil leaders in two regions are already maneuvering for the honor of hosting Obama’s official presidential library.

Now, according to news reports, two places have made the final cut: Chicago and Hawaii.

“Universities and community groups in both places are busy lobbying the president's people for the facility that the contestants see as an economic and cultural boon,” USA Today reports.

There are 13 official presidential libraries. Locally, the Ronald Reagan library is the most popular with tourists (it’s got an Air Force One), though the Richard Nixon library in Yorba Linda definitely has its enchantments (it’s next door to the clapboard home Nixon was born in). All the libraries are managed by the National Archives.

The Associated Press reports that officials at the University of Hawaii have visited most of these libraries, and that a statewide effort to bring the Obama library to Hawaii is being led by Robert Perkinson, an American studies professor at the university.

Hawaii state officials have set aside a $75-million plot of “oceanfront property on a rocky peninsula in the last undeveloped part of urban Honolulu” in hopes of securing the library, the AP reports.

But Politico reported in December that “the heavy favorite to host the library is the University of Chicago: The president was a law professor there, Michelle Obama worked at its hospital, and the faculty and administration are full of friends and former colleagues.”

All agree that the final decision will be Obama's. Once he chooses a location, a huge fundraising campaign will begin. Bill Clinton's efforts to help get his presidential library in Little Rock, Ark., got him into trouble when he granted a pardon -- on his last day in office -- to convicted financier Marc Rich. Rich's wife had made several donations to the Clinton library.


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