After leaving office, it’s become customary for former American Presidents to commission a library to commemorate their time in the White House and serve as a repository for important papers, manuscripts, and other documents of their administration for future scholars to study. Following in these footsteps, President Obama plans on opening his own Presidential Library, but the things he plans on putting inside are leaving many critics in shock.
The former President says that he wants his library to be opened near his hometown of Chicago, and recently released blueprints show that it will contain such unusual amenities as a yoga studio and a “test kitchen” to commemorate his wife Michelle’s war on obesity. Even more unusual than that, however, is the fact that the library will not contain a single hard copy of any of the papers from Obama’s time in office. Instead, future scholars will only be able to access pre-uploaded, digitized versions of the documents from a central server.
The location of the library has also become a cause of concern for many local residents, who say that the area slated for construction is a landmark and is not meant to be disturbed. The territory for the upcoming project is partly in an area known as Jackson Park, which once played host to the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 and was added to the national historic register in 1972. The construction would also require the closure of a road known as Cornell Drive, which is an important thoroughfare in the city.
According to Curbed Chicago, “the Obama Center’s multi-building campus will replace roughly 20 acres of park space, including a number of historic trees… The plan [also] looks to close stretches of Cornell, and Marquette drives as well as construct a new parking structure in the center of the historic Midway Plaisance.”
This, of course, has local activists in an uproar, with many demanding the ex-Pres change locations. Charles Birnbaum, the president of a local preservation group, also said that he believes “the imposition of a massive high-rise tower, hundreds of feet tall … is directly contrary to the overall concept of the park,” and that the current views that the park offers would be forever tarnished by the new building.
It looks like, once again, President Obama acted with no regard for the people actually affected by his plans, but more importantly, it beckons the question of why, exactly, he is refusing to make any of his paperwork available in hard copy, like every president before him has done. Is he trying to hide something, perhaps? We may never know.
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