I know at least some of you are interested in the politicking behind presidential libraries (Anthony Clark’s The Last Campaign is due out next month!). So you might just be interested in the Washington Post‘s report on how “Two Chicago universities, one private and one public, vie for Obama library“:
… Sometime soon, probably before the end of March, President Obama’s foundation is expected to announce a development partner for the Barack Obama Presidential Center. Two of the finalists, culled from an initial field of 13, are Columbia University, the private Ivy League school in Manhattan where Obama earned a bachelor’s degree, and the University of Hawaii, the public flagship of his native state.
The other finalists are a pair of universities here that could hardly be more different.
The private University of Chicago, founded in the 19th century, has 15,000 students and a neo-Gothic campus in Hyde Park with echoes of Oxford and Cambridge. It has deep ties to the president and the first lady. Barack Obama was a senior lecturer at the university’s law school for several years until his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate. Michelle Obama was a vice president for community and external affairs at its medical center and also an associate dean of student services…
The public University of Illinois at Chicago, just west of downtown, took shape after World War II during boom years for state-funded higher education. UIC’s stark modernist campus of concrete and brick has a close-up view of expressways and skyscrapers, including the Willis Tower, once known as the Sears Tower. While the University of Chicago is ultra-selective, turning down 92 out of every 100 undergraduate applicants, UIC is far more accessible, admitting 70 percent of applicants and serving many more students from families with financial need.
UIC officials say their 28,000-student research university is in sync with Obama’s philosophy. “We don’t pay attention to diversity just because it’s convenient,” said Alfred W. Tatum, UIC’s dean of education. “It’s truly at our core.”…
The choice is entirely up to the Obamas, and they will work with a recommendation from the foundation’s board of directors, which includes Obama’s friend Martin Nesbitt; his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng; and political strategist David Plouffe. The foundation, responsible for raising money for a project that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars, declined an interview request. Obama discussed library plans with foundation officials Thursday in a visit to Chicago. White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that no decision had been made….
There’s a not-wholly-glorious precedent for siting the Obama Library in the city of Chicago but away from “his” university. The JFKennedy Library & Museum was built way out on the Columbia Point peninsula, best known at the time for public housing projects & garbage dumps, because the original Harvard-based proposal fell through. (And it’s still folk legend that the well-to-do Brattle Street Cambridge owners volubly rejected any connection with that ‘jumped-up bootlegger’s brat’ JFK and the busloads of Catholic-school kids the ‘unseemly shrine to an accidental martyr’ would attract.) The Harbor Point area, as it is now known, has gentrified considerably since then… but then, of course, so has most of the city of Boston.