HYDE PARK — Barack Obama returned to Chicago Wednesday for the first time since leaving the White House.
Obama was in town to talk about plans for his presidential library in Jackson Park, according to officials from his foundation.
“President Obama met with several civic leaders in Chicago today to discuss the Obama Foundation and the future Obama Presidential Center,” according to an Obama Foundation representative.
The trip is the first time Obama has returned to Chicago since his Jan. 10 farewell address at McCormick Place.
Torrey Barrett, Executive Director K.L.E.O. Community Family Life Center, was one of about a half-dozen people Obama met with Wednesday at his foundation’s headquarters, 5235 S. Harper Court.
Courtesy of Torrey Barrett
He said the president looked relaxed during the 15-minute meeting.
“He looked like the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders,” Barrett said.
Barrett said Obama talked about making the process of developing of the presidential library one that brings the community onboard.
“It has to be one where the community feels like they’re a part of the process from the beginning so they can feel like they did when he was in office, that they’re part of his legacy,” Barrett said.
Rev. Richard Tolliver, rector of St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church, said Obama was clear he would be involved personally in the library project.
“He said that he planned to be personally engaged and in town frequently — once a month,” Tolliver said.
Tolliver said he left the meeting feeling like the library development would start moving swiftly now that Obama is out of the White House.
Obama was also expected to do some fundraising for the library while in town.
“President and Mrs. Obama are excited to bring the center to their hometown,” the foundation representative said. “They look forward to many more conversations with Chicagoans and South Side residents about the center and the unique opportunity to invest in Chicago’s South Side.”
Obama’s visit was much more low-key compared to his visits as president and though there were sightings of the former president reported on social media, there were none of the normal street closures that snarled traffic during his visits as president.