WASHINGTON (AP) — Where will President Barack Obama put his presidential library?
Four years from the end of his presidency, Chicago and Honolulu are ramping up major campaigns to build the center that will house the records of America’s 44th president.
In Illinois and Hawaii, the two states Obama calls home, universities and community groups are drafting plans and deploying a mix of public and private efforts to persuade Obama to choose their site for what will be a monument to his historic presidency and an instrument to continue his legacy.
It’s an early down payment aimed at influencing a decision that likely won’t be announced anytime soon.
“It is a tough choice, but it’s not one that I’ve made yet,” Obama said last month.
In December, top officials from the University of Chicago, where Obama once taught law, traveled to Dallas and met with archivists at The George W. Bush Presidential Library at Southern Methodist University. At the meeting was Susan Sher, first lady Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff and longtime friend and now a senior adviser to the University of Chicago’s president.
Alice McLean, who heads special programs in the university president’s office, also attended the meeting, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act. In the weeks that followed, McLean met Susan Donius, the director of presidential libraries for the National Archives and Records Administration, who provided a set of architectural and design standards required for presidential libraries.
University officials declined to comment, other than to say it’s premature to discuss a library.
In Honolulu, where the president was born, University of Hawaii officials have visited nearly all the 13 official presidential libraries to talk to officials involved in setting them up. An American studies professor, Robert Perkinson, is leading a statewide effort coordinated by the university, with support from Gov. Neil Abercrombie and other state and federal officials. The state Legislature has passed two resolutions urging Obama to pick Hawaii; one resolution calls it “a matter of great state pride that President Obama is the first Hawaii-born citizen to hold that high office.”
On a rocky peninsula in the last undeveloped part of urban Honolulu sits a $75 million plot of oceanfront property that the state, through the Hawaii Community Development Authority, has already set aside in hopes of securing the library, Perkinson said. The property sits next to the university’s medical school.
The state has also identified potential alternatives in case that site is unworkable and is expecting the overall cost, should Hawaii be selected, to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Organizers say they’ve been quietly laying the groundwork for a potential library for years but feel more comfortable discussing it publicly now that Obama has entered his second term.