Controversy in Chicago could help Hawaii's bid for Obama library

Published: Jul. 18, 2012 at 1:30 AM HST|Updated: Jul. 18, 2012 at 7:46 AM HST
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President Barack Obama (center)
President Barack Obama (center)
Reed Dasenbrock
Reed Dasenbrock

MANOA (HawaiiNewsNow) - Controversy in Chicago could help Hawaii land the next presidential library. Soon after voters sent President Obama to the White House in 2008, faculty members at the University of Hawaii at Manoa began dreaming about a presidential center in the islands. The University of Chicago is also interested, but now some opposition has surfaced on campus.

President Obama is hoping to win another four years in office, but whenever he finally leaves Washington a presidential center will chronicle his legacy.

"It has a library where scholars come and they study all of the papers. It has a museum where people come and see portraits of the president and gifts given and material about the history, and it usually has a public policy center as well," explained Reed Dasenbrock, vice chancellor for academic affairs at UH Manoa.

The University of Chicago is also pursuing the project, but a law professor there has reportedly objected, telling the Chicago Sun-Times the facility could violate a school rule prohibiting connections to political causes.

"Of course, he's a Democrat. He's a democratic president, but I believe we view him as a child of Hawaii, not primarily in political terms," said Dasenbrock.

UH Manoa faculty members are working with lawmakers and community members on a campaign to have the center built in Hawaii. They've now visited all of the presidential libraries for research.

"The Clinton library gets 300,000 visitors a year in Little Rock, Arkansas. Reagan's gets 400,000. We think we could probably have half a million visitors a year in Honolulu," Dasenbrock said.

There are two potential sites in Hawaii. One is in Kakaako and the other is near the UH West Oahu campus.

"I believe we're an underdog, but Obama was an underdog in 2008," said Dasenbrock. "We see his childhood here and in Indonesia really making the kind of man he is and we believe siting it here really tells that compelling story about his family, about his background."

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