Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

Obama's Half-Sister Could Sway Presidential Library to Hawaii

Maya Soetoro-Ng joins the board of the president's foundation and search committee.

Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    An update on the Obama library front: the president's Hawaii-based half-sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng, has just been appointed to the board of his foundation in a move that could potentially dash Chicago's hopes of landing his namesake post-presidency institution.

    The Obama Foundation announced Wednesday its recruitment of Soetoro-Ng and ex-White House senior adviser David Plouffe as board members. The organization is headed up by Marty Nesbitt, a Chicago businessman and best friend of Obama, who's in charge of finding a location for the much-coveted library and museum.

    "There are few people who know the President’s life and vision better than the individuals joining our Foundation team today,” Nesbitt said in a statement. “President Obama deeply trusts their advice, judgment, and expertise, and we are confident that his future Presidential Library will be stronger for their input."

    Chicago, where Obama launched his political career, is vying for the tourist-baiting trophy against rival bids from Hawaii, where he grew up, and New York City's Columbia University, his alma mater. The first round of proposals were submitted June 16 and included attractive pitches by The University of Chicago and The University of Illinois at Chicago, among others. A decision will be made in early 2015.

    The Windy City began its aggressive pursuit earlier this year when Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan -- with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's backing -- proposed earmarking $100 in state taxpayer money as a down payment to secure the library. Emanuel, who aims to lure 55 tourists to Chicago by the year 2020, has made no secret of his desire to bring it here as another splashy addition to his efforts to transform the city into a global destination.

    Back to Soetoro-Ng: A Hawaii resident, she is co-founder of the education nonprofit Our Public School and a former assistant professor of education at the University of Hawaii, which is leading a bid to pitch Honolulu's oceanfront as a site to host a "Barack Obama Presidential Center" -- an especially appealing offer, given Obama's roots there and also the beauty of the landscape.

    Fortunately for Chicago, the university said it would consider sharing the library with another site.

    With Soetoro-Ng on board, it looks like that might very well happen.