If you’re like us, watching President Barack Obama’s farewell address from McCormick Place last night got you thinking mistily about what this presidency has meant to Chicago. As the Obama family’s hometown and the nerve center of the 2008 and 2012 campaigns, Chicago has been deeply invested in this president from the beginning—and so has Time Out Chicago.
The newly elected Senator Obama’s name made its first appearance in our very first issue in March 2005, in a brief review of the Second City mainstage revue Red Scare: “This show probes the state of our divided nation, where Republicans are so scared of Barack Obama’s star power that they build a black Republican robot and the Army is so desperate to hang on to gay recruits that it changes its ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy to the slightly less catchy, ‘Don’t leave, don’t leave!’” Our first brief item specifically about the senator came in September of that year, when he joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at Pritzker Pavilion to narrate Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.
The mentions increased rapidly as Obama’s star rose in Washington. In our second issue of 2007, dated January 11, we included him in a cover story on the 20 Chicagoans to watch in 2007: “No story about people to watch over the next year—heck, the next several years—would be complete without mention of Barack Obama, the Democratic party’s most charismatic hope for the presidency. (We love Hillary, who’s from nearby Park Ridge, but unfortunately too many others don’t.)” The following month, Obama officially declared his candidacy for president, no doubt buoyed by our vote of confidence.
By the time Obama had secured the Democratic nomination, we were taking you on a walking tour of his favorite Hyde Park haunts (part of a cover feature on walks inspired by the seven deadly sins, this one our Pride in the candidate). The week after the election, several Time Out Chicago staffers (including yours truly) wrote personal accounts of the election night rally in Grant Park for a piece in Time Out London. And good grief, were we optimistic: “An Obama presidency promises to help bridge the lingering racial divide in this city and the imperfect nation it calls home,” wrote editor Frank Sennett. Well, it was a nice thought.
On a November 2011 cover, we boldly predicted that President Obama would win re-election a year later, giving eight reasons why we were so confident. Two months later, our photographer was among the faithful at UIC Forum for a hometown rally with the president and Janelle Monáe. We put the president on the cover again for Election Day 2012, when we asked a variety of Chicagoans about their memories of Grant Park in 2008 and their assessments of Obama’s performance so far.
We were there, too, at McCormick Place to snap photos and talk to the bigwigs at the victory party on election night 2012. And we’ve kept up with the Obamas and their impact through the president’s second term as well, from David Axelrod’s arrival at the U. of C. to the various presidential library proposals to Malia’s lowkey weekend at Lollapalooza last summer.
No doubt Chicago will continue to claim the Obamas as a favorite family long after they leave the White House next week. As for the next administration…well, let’s stay with the memories of the 44th POTUS for now. To paraphrase another Illinois pol: We had this thing, and it was fucking golden.
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