Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama broke ground on the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago Tuesday, beginning one of the final steps in the long delayed project, reports CNN.
During an event at the center’s construction site on Chicago’s South Side, the former President spoke about his desire to make the center more than just a “static museum,” but for it to strengthen democratic ideas at a time when Americans are “seeing more division and increasingly bitter conflict.”
“What we’ve seen is that in the breach, a culture of cynicism and mistrust can grow. We start seeing more division and increasingly bitter conflict. A politics that feeds anger and resentment towards those who aren’t like us and starts turning away from democratic principles in favor of tribalism,” he said.
“But the good news is we can reverse these trends. I don’t believe it’s inevitable that we succumb to paralysis or mutual hatred or abandon democracy in favor of systems that reserve power and privilege for the few as has been true throughout our history. I believe we have it in us to re-imagine our institutions. To make them responsive to today’s challenges and rebuild our societies in a way that give more and more people a better life,” Obama added.
The Obamas were joined at the event by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who, along with the former first couple, helped break ground on the center by ceremonially overturning a shovelful of dirt.
The 44th President also spoke during Tuesday’s event about beginning his political career in Chicago and what the city has meant to him and his family, saying it “taught me that change doesn’t start on a global scale. Change starts one person at a time.”