Hawaii Woos Obama With Offer for Presidential Library


Hawaii put in a bid on Thursday, Dec. 11, in an attempt to woo President Obama with an offer for his presidential library, the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Honolulu. The state hopes to lure the president back to where he was born and graduated high school.

Obama’s life post high school was largely spent elsewhere, with his student life centering on the East coast and his political career before attaining the presidency rooted in Illinois. Appropriately, the other contenders for this honor are Columbia University where he studied as an undergrad, the University of Chicago and the University of Chicago at Illinois. The four finalists made the cut from a pool of 13 applications.

The bid proposes locating the library in Honolulu. The Oceanside venue in Kakaako Makai near the Children’s Discovery Center will yield dramatic views of the famous Diamond Head volcanic crater. It is convenient to University of Hawaii (UH) and other educational facilities. It is also very accessible by all kinds of transportation, including rail in the future. Hawaii officials are confident that the 8-acre spread between Waikiki and downtown Honolulu would become one of the most popular presidential centers, due to the millions of tourists who visit Hawaii each year and the local demographics.


Mayor Caldwell of Honolulu said the center would be the focal point of a walkable community and bring new life to the waterfront and be a testament to civic pride. The Governor’s office, University of Hawaii and other institutions, including Punahou School, Obama’s old alma mater, were involved in the preparation and submission of the bid to the Barack Obama Foundation. It included designs from four separate architect teams.

The design and engineering would be forward thinking, aiming for “Living Building Challenge” certification, a model of resilient coastal environment construction. Architects propose huge covered, as well as open-air areas in keeping with the climate and style of the islands. One proposed harnessing the abundant sunshine to generate solar power for their energy requirements. Vegetable gardens would further the agricultural tradition the first lady began at the White House.

The designs are subject to change when the final decision is made. The president and the first lady will announce their choice by end March 2015. The Barack Obama Foundation will be involved in organizing capital, supervision of design, construction and operations.

Hawaii’s bid team sponsored prior, independent research, which resulted in persuasive findings. A Presidential Center based in Honolulu would give a significant boost to the economy of the state. An estimated one to two thousand jobs would be created during construction alone. It would generate an additional $25-$40 million in tax revenues. In 10 years, the institution would have accelerated economic growth to the tune of over $2 billion.

The four principal programs are, a Global Youth Leadership Academy for K-12, a Convening Institute think-tank, a University of Hawaii Center for Community Organizing and an interactive visitor center. Each of the proposed programs will be self-sustaining through independent revenue streams.

As Hawaii woos Obama with an alluring offer for his presidential library, Lt. Governor Shan Tsutsui spoke of Hawaii’s vision for a dynamic institution that would both honor the legacy of the 44th president, and headline its multicultural heritage. It would address cooperative action towards global problems and create new leadership.

According to the Barack Obama Foundation the main criteria for qualification include transportation and accessibility, economic development, the ability to deliver a world-class project, community engagement and support. The four proposals in the final cut are at the forefront of this race according to Martin Nesbitt, board chairman of the foundation.

U.S. senator Brian Schatz believes Hawaii’s chances are good. The choice, harking back to his roots would be very personal one. It would determine how he wants to define his legacy. According to UH president David Lassner the Presidential Center would commemorate Barack Obama’s legacy and propel forward research, education and innovation, not just in Hawaii but throughout the United States and around the world.”

Hawaii, in wooing Obama with the offer to host the presidential library and hopes it has extended an invitation the Honolulu-born president will not be able to refuse. Mid 2015 will reveal if these hopes will be realized.

By Bina Joseph



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Main Image by Christopher Dilts – Flickr License

Photo by Justin Sloan – Flickr License 

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