The plans are out for the Barack Obama Presidential Center and Library in Chicago—and the former President is taking heat for some over-the-top features.
The planned library, which will be located in Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago, will feature a museum and library like most presidential libraries—but will also include a basketball court, a room for yoga classes, and a test kitchen for demonstrations to cook healthy food.
What the library won’t include? Hard-copy manuscripts, letters, and documents—instead opting to simply host a digital archive, to the surprise of many historians, considering the core purpose of a presidential library.
In a scathing editorial for the Chicago Tribune, columnist Ron Grossman—an Obama supporter—slammed 44th President for his over-the-top center, saying that the museum should instead focus on Obama’s historic role as the first black President, rather than a laundry list of silly ad-ons.
“What brought me up short was a space in the adjoining Forum building labeled ‘test kitchen,’” wrote Grossman. “Presumably that reflects Michelle Obama’s war on junk food. The museum’s champions similarly suggest it could host yoga classes.”
“President Obama, is that how you want to be remembered?” Grossman asked. “As the healthy-eating and meditation-advocating president? That’s not how I want the story to come down to my grandchildren’s children. One of my daughters and her future husband drove through the night to be at your 2009 inauguration. They didn’t know, or care, where they’d sleep in Washington.”
“Let me remind you, Mr. President, that your part in the revolution that followed was also set in Chicago,” Grossman cautioned. “You were a community organizer in the Roseland neighborhood. And a quarter of a million people celebrated your election in Grant Park.”
Last year, Obama described his presidential center as a “campus,” with plans to make it a “premier institution for training young people in leadership”—apparently, through test kitchens and yoga rooms, rather than actual history or documents from Obama’s presidency.