CHICAGO (CBS) — The Obama Foundation hosted a public meeting in Chicago Tuesday evening to gather additional input on the Obama Presidential Center slated for the city’s South Side.
The event was held at McCormick Place, and featured a guest appearance by former President Barack Obama himself. When he walked onto the stage, the crowd was so surprised they were almost stunned silent. Obama said he wanted to share his vision for his Presidential Center and, in doing so, likely try to win over some critics.
“This could anchor a transformation of the South Side to create more jobs, more business opportunities, more educational opportunities, more hope,” Obama said.
Obama talked up the importance of the Jackson Park location, which he believes will help revitalize that area — and beyond.
“It will send a message to young people on the South Side that you count — that you matter,” Obama said.
He also talked down gentrification concerns. And so-called community benefit agreements — something some critics and groups want — to ensure residents and businesses don’t get pushed out. Obama’s view? You make a deal with a few groups.
“So now, suddenly, I’ve got five other other organizations saying ‘Hey, how come you set up with them? What about us?'”
A few audience members were able to pose questions, such as if the center will be open year-round.
But Obama really hammered home one point: his hope that the center makes lives better for South Side residents, where his roots are still embedded.
“The strengths of Chicago will become manifest, become apparent, everywhere. And that makes the city stronger.”
This was the first time the former President addressed meeting members in person.