“All the strands of my life came together, and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago. That’s where I was able to apply that early idealism to try to work in the communities in public service,” Obama said in the nearly three-minute video. “That’s where I met my wife, that’s where my children were born, and the people there, the community, the lessons I learned, they’re all based right in this few square miles where we’ll be able to now give something back and bring the world back home after this incredible journey.”
The South Side location — in the neighborhood Obama represented as a state senator hosted by the school where he taught law — had long seemed like the obvious favorite. Obama’s motorcade even took a detour to drive by the area during his last trip to Chicago in February, and the local papers have been reporting that the choice was a fait accompli.
But in Chicago itself, the announcement closes a chapter on months of political drama. The University of Chicago doesn’t actually own the land it wants to use — one of two city parks — and citizens’ groups have objected to taking away local green space. It took the personal intervention of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, to broker a deal to transfer the park land over.