With President Barack Obama’s term ending next year, Chicago is abuzz with speculation: Will he return to live in the city that brought him into the political limelight?
From Hyde Park on Chicago’s South Side, the city’s iconic skyline looks faded in the distance. Obama’s red-brick Georgian home in the neighborhood attracts heavy security and interest.
Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate and U.S. Senate before becoming the first African-American president of the United States. Michelle Obama worked at the University of Chicago in leafy Hyde Park, and their children Natasha and Malia Ann were also born here.
“All the strands of my life came together and I really became a man when I moved to Chicago,” Obama said recently while announcing that Chicago will host the Obama presidential library.
This was a proud moment for a city dealing with news of investment agencies downgrading its credit rating and many saying it’s sliding into bankruptcy.
There has been word that Obama as ex-president may go to New York rather than Chicago, or choose warmer climes (like his birthplace, Hawaii), but no one has declared where the first family will indeed move.
Chicago is roughly divided into three parts, according to a friend who mentioned this without any racial overtones: the north is white, the south is black and the west is mostly brown.
Differences in the South Side of Chicago are indeed visible. There are homes with broken doors and boarded-up windows. The streets and backyards are sometimes littered, and few homes have well-mowed lawns.
But this dilapidated area on the road to Midway Airport is a few miles west of Hyde Park. Many of the homes on streets close to his house are populated by university students, with great music pouring out of windows. (Several newspapers lay outside some of these houses at evening time, indicating to me that the residents are simply reading their newspapers online.)
On President Obama’s block, the Secret Service guards access on one end of the barricaded street and police guard the other end.
You can see from a distance that Obama’s house is bang opposite the KAM Isaiah Israel synagogue. If Obama returns to live in this house, he’ll enjoy the calm, green and easygoing neighborhood walks, but he may also find it difficult to escape memories of his conversations with his Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iran.