Obama's Top 10 Chicago moments

The Obamas have never shied away from their Chicago roots, but as the first family has spent less and less time in the city, and the chances seem unlikely that they will move back to the city post-presidency, it was a pleasant surprise that Barack Obama chose Chicago as the backdrop for his farewell speech as president of the United States.

There have been a few instances that have called Obama’s Chicago cred into question. Like that issue with a St. Louis pizza place being his favorite. And when it seemed his visits back home were few and far between. But we can forgive these transgressions for the other times he’s championed Chicago, from its triumphs in sports to choosing the city to be home to his presidential center. Here are the Top 10 in honor of his Jan. 10 farewell speech, 10 days before the end of his presidency. (And yes, half of this list is related to a Chicago sports team in some way, but what else would you expect from the First Fan?) 

@elisekdelo  |  ekdelossantos@redeyechicago.com

 

Nov. 4, 2008

Election Night in Grant Park

The rapid rise of Obama from Illinois state senator to U.S. Senator to president of the United States culminated on Election Night 2008, when thousands of people packed Grant Park to watch the election results come in and then listen to Obama’s victory speech. For that historic night, you couldn’t have asked for a bigger stage than Grant Park—near the lakefront, in the center of the city and against the backdrop of the Chicago skyline. Up for re-election in 2012, Obama returned to Chicago for Election Night, albeit in the smaller, less public venue of McCormick Place.

 

July 14, 2009

2009 MLB All-Star Game

Only a few months into his presidency, Obama was called upon to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the 80th All-Star Game at Busch Stadium in St. Louis. And while he may not have the form of a major-league pitcher (and don’t get us started on those mom jeans!), Obama proudly repped his team, wearing the black and white of a Sox jacket, which popped out against the sea of red in Cards country.

 

July 23, 2009

Unbreakable

“Let me tell you something. I’m from Chicago. I don’t break.”

Obama’s battle with Republicans over health care reform started nearly as soon as he was in office, with some in the GOP predicting that Obama’s determination to pass a health care law would “break” his presidency. The usually diplomatic president had a very direct response to critics: “I don’t break.” The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, was signed March 2010, and remains an issue that could define his presidency, for better or for worse.

 

Oct. 7, 2011

Recognizing the ’85 Bears

“Ladies and gentlemen, the greatest team in NFL history—the 1985 Chicago Bears.”

Maybe it’s because he had to go back a bit further in history to find something Bears-related worthy of celebration during his tenure, but the president invited the ’85 Bears to the White House to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their Super Bowl win. The team had never had a chance to celebrate their win with then-President Ronald Reagan due to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger shortly after their win, but the First Fan remedied the situation in 2011.

 

Oct. 25, 2012

Early voting

“I’m just glad I renewed my driver’s license.”
—Obama, after a poll worker asked to see his photo ID.

Recent elections have seen pushes by both the Republican and Democratic parties urging their supporters to vote early, and during the 2012 and 2016 general elections, Obama returned home to Chicago to vote early. Of course, this was as much a PR stunt as Obama carrying out his civic duty: In 2012, he told journalists afterward, “I just want everybody to see what an incredibly efficient process this was,” and 2016’s trip was preceded by a video for Hillary Clinton’s campaign touting how the president is early for everything, including voting. But 2012 marked the first time in history that a president voted early.

 

May 12, 2015

Obama Presidential Center

For many months after the Obama Foundation was formed in 2014, the question of where Obama would ultimately choose for his presidential library was up in the air. Chicago proposed several different sites, but options in Hawaii (Obama’s birthplace) and New York (where many believe the Obamas will move after they leave Washington, D.C.) were also in the mix. But in May 2015, Obama and Mayor Emanuel announced that the presidential library would call Chicago’s South Side home, with Jackson Park being named the official site more than a year later.

 

Feb. 4, 2016

Bulls are still the best

“It is rare to be in the presence of guys from the greatest team in NBA history. So we’re pretty lucky today because we’ve got one of those players in the house—Steve Kerr, from the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls!”

Even if your hometown team hasn’t seen a championship in 20 years, it’s OK to reference them when hosting the current NBA champions. At least it is if you’re the president and those current champions have challenged the title of “greatest team ever” of the ’95-’96 Bulls, which included Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and, yes, current Golden State coach Steve Kerr. Really, Obama couldn’t have asked for a better setup for his comedic quip.

 

Feb. 18, 2016

Taking credit for the Blackhawks’ success

“Before I was president, I just want to point out ... the Blackhawks had gone almost half a century without seeing this thing. Now you’ve got the hat trick. So I think it’s pretty clear the kind of luck I’ve brought to this team. And, by the way, we’ve got a state dinner with Canada coming up, so we may just leave it right in the middle of the room. We could gloat a little bit.”

Obama was able to invite the Blackhawks to the White House three times as Stanley Cup champions. The third time around, he even misspoke and tried to credit the Hawks with four recent wins instead of their three—perhaps the president can see into the future?

 

Nov. 3, 2016

Congratulating the Cubs

“It happened: @Cubs win World Series. That’s change even this South Sider can believe in. Want to come to the White House before I leave?”
—@POTUS

Even the die-hard Sox fan set aside any crosstown animosity to congratulate Chicago’s other baseball team on their first World Series win in 108 years. And though it’s looking less and less likely that the Cubs will be able to squeeze in a visit to the White House before Obama moves out, it’s the thought that counts, right?

 

Eating like a Chicagoan

Anywhere the president eats becomes a headline and subsequently the hottest reservation in town, and many of the spots the first family has eaten at in the past eight years have highlighted some of the best the city has to offer as a world-class dining destination (see Page 10). However, Obama also took some Chicago eats with him to the White House, with aides telling the Tribune last year that Eli’s Cheesecake and Garrett’s popcorn were common sights in the Obama White House.

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