Obama has announced the opening of his presidential center with a call for grassroots activism

Waltzing out of the White House.
Waltzing out of the White House.
Image: AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
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Most outgoing presidents shove their papers in a fancy library and let them sit there. Not Barack Obama—his library will be a “presidential center for citizenship” on the South Side of Chicago and he’s calling on ordinary Americans to help drive it.

In a short video on newly-launched, he and outgoing first lady Michelle returned to the theme that has dominated the end of his presidency: reinvigorating the grassroots activism that got him elected.

“Send us your ideas, your hopes, your beliefs about what we can achieve together,” Michelle Obama says in the video. “Tell us about the young leaders and companies, and organizations that inspire you. This will be your presidential center just as much as ours.”

The site is light on details, but says the foundation will focus on developing a new “generation of citizens” and leaders, and promises an array of projects in Chicago and across the world. As Obama put it last October: “Michelle and I, I think, if we look back 20 years from now and can say that we helped to contribute to the leadership of the next generation to replace us and to exceed what we’ve accomplished, we’ll feel pretty good about ourselves.”

As for the bigger picture in creating active citizens? A belief that individual engagement in society is crucial for democracy—something Obama mentioned a record-breaking 20 times in his farewell address.

“As I’ve said many times before, true democracy is a project that’s much bigger than any one of us. It’s bigger than any one person, any one president, any one government—it’s a job for all of us,” he says in the video.