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Columbia University in the City of New York is seeking to host the future presidential library of President Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., Robert Hornsby, Columbia University’s Associate Vice President for Media Relations, admitted to Chicago Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet, as she reported on Thursday, January 9, 2014. This admission came after Greg Hinz wrote about Columbia University’s effort in the January 9th edition of Crain Chicago Business. Last November, Columbia University denied such a plan existed. Ms. Sweet described it as “an artfully worded denial.”

The future president earned his bachelor’s degree in political science there in 1983 after attending Columbia University for two years. Columbia University officials have a seventeen-acre site in mind, bounded by Broadway, 12th Avenue, 125th Street, and 132nd Street. This would place it on the new campus in the Manhattanville neighborhood (also known as West Harlem) on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, north of the Morningside Heights campus where President Obama attended classes.

According to Ms, Sweet, “At present, the University of Chicago is the frontrunner, working on its proposal for more than a year, with the effort led by U. of C. executive Susan Sher, the former chief of staff for first lady Michelle Obama. The Obama family, close friends and likely major donors have long-standing and significant ties to the U. of C.” [1]

President Obama was a lecturer in The University of Chicago Law School while he was in the Illinois Senate before he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Mrs. Obama held several executive positions at The University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Hospitals.[2] I would add that the oldest and more northerly portion of The University of Chicago campus is in Hyde Park, a few minutes’ drive from the Obama family mansion in Kenwood, north of Hyde Park.

NBC-5 reported last November that the University of Illinois at Chicago (U.I.C.) had issued an official bid to host the future Obama Presidential Library. UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares wrote in an e-mail, “We are in and of Chicago.” In her more recent article, Ms. Sweet pointed out that Obama friend Chris Kennedy is Chairman of the Board of the University of Illinois.[3]

Ms. Sweet predicted that the Obama Administration would reveal the selection process and the creation of a presidential library foundation after President Obama gives his State of the Union Address on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. She also predicted, “Marty Nesbitt and Julianna Smoot will be leading the foundation.”[4]

Martin “Marty” Nesbitt is a close friend of President Obama.[5] Ms. Sweet reported that he vacation with the Obamas in Hawaii over Christmas. He served as Treasurer of the 2008 Obama Presidential Campaign.

Julianna Smoot served as Finance Director of the Obama 2008 Presidential Campaign and Deputy Manager of the Obama 2012 Presidential Campaign. In 2010, while Ms. Smoot was serving as Chief of State to U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, President Obama appointed her Special Assistant to the President and White House Social Secretary.

Two local politicians also setup an exploratory committee for Chicago State University to make a bid. NBC-5 reported that a retired professor and civil rights activist, Timuel Black, Jr. is one of several people who are separately campaigning for the future Obama Presidential Library to be built in Bronzeville.

We have known since 2010 that Hawaii also wanted to host the future Obama Presidential Library. Now it looks like there will be a three-way tug-of-war for the right to host the Obama Presidential Library between Mr. Obama’s birthplace, his power base, and the largest city in the federation.

[1] Effective August 1, 2011, Susan Sher became The University of Chicago’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Public Affairs at the Medical Center and Senior Adviser to the President of the University. From 1997 to 2009, she served had as Vice President for Legal & Governmental Affairs and General Counsel of the University of Chicago Medical Center. As a member of the Obama inner circle, she served first as Special Assistant to the President and Associate White House Counsel, then as Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff for First Lady Michelle Obama. Further, she served as White House Liaison to the Jewish Community.

[2] Michelle Obama started, in 1996, as Associate Dean of Student Services for The University of Chicago. In 2002, she switched to The University of Chicago Hospitals, where Susan Sher appointed her Executive Director of the Office of Community Affairs. Mrs. Obama became Vice President for Community & External Affairs at The University of Chicago Hospitals in 2005.

[3] Christopher George Kennedy is the son of RFK and Ethel Skakel Kennedy. Chris Kennedy has deep ties here as the Kennedy family formerly owned the Merchandise Mart and his maternal grandfather, George Skakel, Sr. (1892-1955) made his fortune here. Kennedy earned his M.B.A. at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. He served as president of the real estate-management company Merchandise Mart Properties from 2000 to 2012.

[4] With The Presidential Records Act of 1978 Congress stipulated that the records generated by a presidential administration which document that president’s duties as head and chief of state (constitutional, statutory, and ceremonial) are the property of the United States Government, and as such after he leaves office, the Archivist of the United States assumes custody of those documents. This law allowed for the previous policy of privately-built-and-publicly-managed presidential libraries as repositories of individual presidents to continue. The Presidential Libraries Act of 1986 required that each presidential library come with a private endowment to help offset the cost of NARA’s administration of the facility.

[5] Nesbitt earned his M.B.A. at The University of Chicago, where he met his wife and befriended Mr. Obama. He is the founder of The Park Spot and a private equity firm, The Vistria Group.


Archivists at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum have digitized a short speech Jacqueline Lee Bouvier “Jackie” Kennedy (1929-1994) gave on television in 1964 and posted it on the Web site. On January 24, 2014, President Kennedy’s widow and his two surviving brothers, U.S. Attorney-General Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy (1925-1968) and U.S. Senator Edward Moore “Ted” Kennedy (1932-2009), went on television to announce the nearly 800,000 letters of condolence people sent Mrs. Kennedy and their (two surviving) children would be placed in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library.

Archivists have also recently digitized and placed on the Web site a health card on which Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (1890-1995) noted the future president’s childhood illnesses. She was conscientious about recording the health of her children.

On Monday, February 17, 2014, the JFK Presidential Library & Museum will celebrate Presidents' Day with its fourth annual Family Festival, which it states will feature “several family-oriented activities and programs to bring the Library to life in new ways for all ages!” Admission will be free for all children under the age of eighteen.

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