Hempstead, N.Y., has done it. St. Louis has done it. Opa-Locka, Fla., did it. Naquera, Spain, is trying to do it. Tacoma, Wash., might do it. So might Cleveland. Do what? Name a street or school for Barack Obama.
Hempstead, N.Y., has done it. St. Louis has done it. Opa-Locka, Fla., did it. Naquera, Spain, is trying to do it. Tacoma, Wash., might do it. So might Cleveland.
Do what? Name a street or school for Barack Obama.
So what about Springfield? None of those cities has as strong a connection to President Obama as does Springfield. Obama served in the legislature here. He announced his candidacy for the presidency here. He introduced his vice president here.
Are we just going to let this slide? No, says Mayor Tim Davlin, we are not.
“Funny, we’ve been talking about this already, just informally” says the mayor. “I think it’s a great idea. We just didn’t want to jump into it. We want to think this out, what to do.”
What would be the right thing to do? It seems naming a street for Obama isn’t quite enough. Even Opa-Locka can do that. How about a school?
“I have not heard the board mention it,” says Springfield School District spokeswoman Sarah Watson. “But maybe this will spur some discussion.”
Because all of Springfield’s existing schools are named and no new schools are imminent, we would have to change the name of a current school. I nominate Southeast High School, which is named for nothing more exciting than its geography. Zzzzzz.
Springfield has already named some of its streets and schools in honor of Adlai Stevenson, Ulysses S. Grant, Everett Dirksen, Lincoln of course, state legislator J. David Jones and others I can’t think of right now. That is a mix of Democrats and Republicans, so this transcends politics — if there is such a thing anymore in this country.
The obvious place in Springfield to name for the president would be the Old State Capitol area, the very spot Obama chose for his two historic announcements on the way to the White House.
“Call it President Obama Plaza,” says Sangamon County Democratic Party chairman Tim Timoney. “Put up some plaques. The plaza is city property. Tim (he means the mayor) could do that by proclamation.”
Just to clarify, the grounds inside the fence belong to the state. Outside the fence, it’s the city.
Over at the state, by the way, they are prepared to do something; they just don’t know what.
“We have the podium (Obama) used,” says Dave Blanchette, spokesman for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, “his and Biden’s signed speeches, various tickets and passes, signed books, and the pen they used to sign everything.
“These will be used in some future, as-yet-unplanned exhibits.”
Could there be room for a small pavilion or some other covered display area on an Obama Plaza where these things could be exhibited? People touring the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum could just stroll right over to Obama Plaza to see Springfield’s connection to a second history-making president.
Speaking of the ALPLM, perhaps we should be thinking bigger.
“Think about this,” says Mayor Davlin. “In a few years, or eight years from now, the guy’s going to have to have a presidential museum. There are only two cities on the continent where it can be — Chicago or Springfield.
“And wouldn’t you want your presidential museum somewhere near the museum for the greatest president that ever lived?”
Why not? Obama certainly isn’t going to put his museum in Hempstead, Cleveland, Tacoma or Opa-Locka. Let’s get on it.
Dave Bakke can be reached at (217) 788-1541 or email@example.com.