Today, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald became the first black artists to create official presidential portraits for the Smithsonian. To call this experience humbling would be an understatement.
Thanks to Kehinde and Amy, generations of Americans — and young people from all around the world — will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this country through a new lens. They’ll walk out of that museum with a better sense of the America we all love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Inclusive and optimistic. And I hope they’ll walk out more empowered to go and change their worlds.
This month, we tell the stories of a special set of heroes: The African American community organizers and active citizens who have, throughout our history, brought people together in pursuit of a more just, inclusive, and generous America. The pioneers who challenged us to dream bigger.
C.T. Vivian is one of those heroes. A Baptist minister, C.T. Vivian was one of Dr. King’s closest advisors. “Martin taught us,” he says, “that it’s in the action that we find out who we really... are.” And time and again, Reverend Vivian was among the first to be in the action. In 1947, he joined a sit-in to integrate an Illinois restaurant. He was one of the first Freedom Riders. In Selma, he stood on the courthouse steps to register blacks to vote -- and was beaten, bloodied and jailed for it. In standing up, he helped inspire a young woman to sit down and hold her ground. Her name was Rosa Parks. She said of him, “Even after things had supposedly been taken care of and we had our rights, he was still out there, inspiring the next generation, including me.”
And me. Without the sacrifices and hard-won battles of folks like C.T. Vivian, I may have never had the honor to serve as your president.
And that’s the beauty of this nation: Each new generation stands on the successes of the last -- and reaches up to bend the arc of history in the direction of more freedom, more opportunity, more justice.
As we continue to reflect on the sacrifices and contributions made by generations of African Americans this month, let us resolve to continue our march toward a day when every person knows the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Throughout Black History Month, we’re highlighting the stories of African American icons and up-and-coming changemakers who are taking action to build the world... as it should be.
We begin our series with Reverend C.T. Vivian, a stalwart activist on the march toward racial equality. Whether at a lunch counter, on a Freedom Ride, or behind the bars of a prison cell, he was unafraid to take bold action in the face of fierce resistance. By pushing change through nonviolent demonstration and advocacy, C.T. Vivian established and led numerous organizations to support underserved individuals and communities. His legacy of combating injustice shines as an example for the next generation of leaders.
Over the course of the past year, Michelle and I have been working with an extraordinary team to dream up a campus for active citizenship on Chicago’s South Side: The Obama Presidential Center.
Today, we’re taking a significant step forward and I wanted to share the very latest: Obama.org/The-Center
“More than a museum with stories from the past, we want this to be a place that helps all of us to build our collective future. Because in the end, this Center,... most importantly, is for the leaders of tomorrow who are ready to step up and create the world as it should be.” —President Barack Obama on the vision for the Obama Presidential Center, a dynamic place for Chicagoans and visitors alike to gather, exchange ideas, learn, and also have some fun: https://www.obama.org/the-center
During my presidency, I started a tradition of sharing my reading lists and playlists. It was a nice way to reflect on the works that resonated with me and lift up authors and artists from around the world. With some extra time on my hands this year to catch up, I wanted to share the books and music that I enjoyed most. From songs that got me moving to stories that inspired me, here's my 2017 list — I hope you enjoy it and have a happy and healthy New Year.
The best books I ...read in 2017:
The Power by Naomi Alderman
Grant by Ron Chernow
Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Five-Carat Soul by James McBride
Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout
Dying: A Memoir by Cory Taylor
A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
*Bonus for hoops fans: Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Basketball (and Other Things) by Shea Serrano
My favorite songs of 2017:
Mi Gente by J Balvin & Willy William
Havana by Camila Cabello (feat. Young Thug)
Blessed by Daniel Caesar
The Joke by Brandi Carlile
First World Problems by Chance The Rapper (feat. Daniel Caesar)
Rise Up by Andra Day
Wild Thoughts by DJ Khaled (feat. Rihanna and Bryson Tiller)
Family Feud by Jay-Z (feat. Beyoncé)
Humble by Kendrick Lamar
La Dame et Ses Valises by Les Amazones d’Afrique (feat. Nneka)
Unforgettable by French Montana (feat. Swae Lee)
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National
Chanel by Frank Ocean
Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man
Butterfly Effect by Travis Scott
Matter of Time by Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Little Bit by Mavis Staples
Millionaire by Chris Stapleton
Sign of the Times by Harry Styles
Broken Clocks by SZA
Ordinary Love (Extraordinary Mix) by U2
*Bonus: Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen (not out yet, but the blues version in his Broadway show is the best!)
Wearing a Santa hat helps, too.
I just got off a call to say thanks to folks who are working hard to help Americans around the country sign up for health care. But it's up to all of us to help to spread the word and tell people they can sign up through this Friday at HealthCare.gov or 1-800-318-2596.
Every plan that you can shop for right now includes free preventive care, like checkups, mammograms, and contraceptive care. There are no more annual or lifetime limits on the essential care you receive. And insurers can't discriminate against you if you've got a preexisting condition. Plus, most people can find plans with monthly premiums under $75.
Don't delay — head over to HealthCare.gov and check out your options.
I’m about to join a town hall with young people from all over India who are charting the course for a better future. I hope you’ll tune in.
Yesterday, I dropped by a service project in Northeast D.C., where a group of veterans were fixing up a public housing project. Just think about that for a moment. On a day dedicated to honoring their sacrifice, these veterans chose to honor their fellow citizens. They chose to roll up their sleeves and ask, “Now, what else can I do?”
Today is a day to honor those who have honored our country with its highest form of service. We owe our veterans our thanks. Our respect. Our freedom. Today, we humbly acknowledge that we can never truly serve our veterans in quite the same way that they served us. But we can try. We can practice kindness. We can volunteer. We can serve. We can respect one another. We can have each other’s backs. We can ask, “Now, what else can I do?”
Starting today, you can sign up for 2018 health coverage. Head on over to HealthCare.gov and find a plan that meets your needs and your budget. And spread the word so your friends and family can, too.
Tonight, the ex-Presidents are getting together in Texas to support all our fellow Americans rebuilding from this year’s hurricanes. Join us. Tune in and find out how you can help at OneAmericaAppeal.org.
I feel lucky to spend time with young leaders like these. Keep up the good work, São Paulo.
When I left office, I told you all that the single most important thing I could do would be to help prepare the next generation of leaders to take their own crack at changing the world. The Obama Foundation Fellows program is looking to do just that -- train and support civic innovators who are solving problems in their communities in creative and powerful ways. Apply to join our inaugural class of twenty Fellows by Friday, October 6th: www.Obama.org/Fellowship