How About Obama’s Presidential Library?

UChicago

Officials may not have to worry about this for a few years yet but the University of Chicago [campus at right], where President Barack Obama taught law for several years, is in the midst of a serious debate about Obama’s library. Does it belong at the Illinois school?

According to an article by Sahaj Kohli at the Huffington Post:

Though the president was once a senior law lecturer at U. of C., the dispute is causing a divide among the faculty. Charles Lipson, a Political Science professor, opposes his campus advocating a political stance.

“I want to raise the alarm because I think a presidential museum will inevitably become our university’s highest-profile institution on a national basis,” Lipson told the Sun-Times. “It will not be a disinterested, scholarly institution. It will be advancing a political agenda, funded by President Obama’s political allies, including foreign donors who cannot give money to his presidential campaigns.”

He’s exaggerating a little. Over time the political part of the president ceases to be historically relevant. It’s not like the Herbert Hoover Library in West Branch, Iowa is really a center for advancing a GOP political agenda.

Still, the existence of a presidential library on a college campus does, at least initially, draw many members of the president’s party to campus. It was that sort of worry that led students and administrators at Duke University to oppose putting Richard Nixon’s library there (well, that and the fact that Nixon was a crook).

The University of Chicago, while politically diverse, has also been home to some of America’s major conservative thinkers, including Milton Friedman, Richard Posner, and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

It’s not really clear that President Obama even wants to put his library at Chicago, however. The Hawaii legislature, in fact, has already passed a law to build Obama’s library at the University of Hawaii, the school where his parents met and his sister attended college.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer