SPRINGFIELD – Today, Governor JB Pritzker, representatives from the Obama Foundation and the Old State Capitol Foundation, state lawmakers, and community members dedicated a historical marker on the grounds of the Old State Capitol in Springfield to commemorate President Barack Obama's momentous 2007 and 2008 presidential campaign announcements from the building's lawn.
"On February 10th, 2007, a bright-eyed junior Senator from our great state stood at the Old State Capitol to begin his journey to the White House by laying out his vision for the United States: a vision where change was possible, progress was near, and hope would prevail above all," Governor Pritzker said. "The past few years have taken a toll on us all, but our resiliency and perseverance have been driven by the most American of virtues: hope. This marker is a reminder that one of our favorite sons brought a message of hope that resonated at a crucial time to people all across the world. Here in the Land of Lincoln and the home state of Barack Obama, our people will never stop believing that a better future is possible."
"In Illinois, we honor the leaders who have made history so their legacy may guide us to the future," Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton said. "With this dedication, we shine a light on the path forged by President Obama – beginning in Springfield and extending across our nation – so that the next generations are inspired to take us even further. President Obama showed all of us that we can be the change we want to see in the world, and it is with great pride that this site will live on as a cornerstone of Illinois history."
President Obama, a former Illinois state lawmaker, was a U.S. Senator representing Illinois when he announced his bid for presidency from the Old State Capitol with his family on Feb. 10, 2007. The announcement attracted statewide, national, and international attention to Springfield and the Old State Capitol. An estimated 17,000 people gathered at the site to watch.
"When I think back to February 2007, I always return to the thousands of people who came together from different walks of life, because they believed in their collective ability to bring about change," said Obama Foundation Executive Vice President of External Affairs Michael Strautmanis. "It's an incredibly inspiring story that not only informs the work of the Obama Foundation today, but one that we will be proud to share with visitors all over the world who come to the Obama Presidential Center when it opens on Chicago's beloved South Side."
Eighteen months later, on Aug. 23, 2008, Obama returned to the Old State Capitol for another major announcement – that U.S. Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware would be his running mate. Again, Springfield and the Old State Capitol became the focus of international attention.
"The Old State Capitol is maintained to look like it did in 1860, to remind us of this building's ties to Abraham Lincoln and his times. Because of these ties, this building remains relevant today and history continues to be made here, even though this is an historic site," said David Joens, president of the Old State Capitol Foundation. "Then-Senator Obama recognized the relevance of the Old State Capitol to today's world when he came here to make his two historic campaign announcements, and we honor him today not in spite of this building's historic past but because of it."
Barack Obama was elected the nation's 44th president on Nov. 4, 2008. He made history as the first African American elected president of the United States and the fourth Illinoisan elected to the office. Biden became his vice president, and both served two terms. Biden went on to be elected President in his own right in 2020.
"Then-Senator Obama's decision to launch his campaign in Springfield was a reflection of lessons he learned working as a state legislator, lessons that continue to guide the work he does today in his post-presidency," said Anita Decker-Breckenridge, President Obama's current chief of staff, who served as the downstate director of his Senate office and helped organize the 2007 announcement. "The belief in what we can accomplish when we come together to demand change is what drew 17,000 supporters to Springfield on that cold February morning 15 years ago. That same spirit animated his campaign for the White House and continues to inspire new generations today."
Funding and design of the historical marker is the result of a partnership among the Old State Capitol, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the Illinois State Historical Society, and the Obama Presidential Library.
The Old State Capitol in downtown Springfield is a state historic site operated by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. It was Illinois' statehouse from 1840 to 1876 and is the site where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous "House Divided" speech.
President Obama's reputation as a dedicated state lawmaker continues to resonate with legislators today.
"President Obama's colleagues in the State Senate always knew he was bound for bigger things," Illinois Senate President Don Harmon said. "He carried to the highest office in the land the same curiosity, demeanor and willingness to ask tough questions that he had while serving in Springfield."
"President Obama is a trailblazer and a role model who represents the very best of Illinois," Speaker of the House Emanuel "Chris" Welch said. "While forging a path to the White House, he carried with him the best qualities and characteristics of the people of this diverse state. This marker is a lasting reminder of this journey, and of the countless individuals across our country who were inspired to dream of a better America."
"Long before President Obama made his mark on the nation, he made his mark on Springfield – serving not just as an elected official, but as a man dedicated to our community," said State Senator Doris Turner (D-Springfield). "Through this recognition at the Old State Capitol, we ensure that President Obama's legacy will live on forever while fostering tourism opportunities for years to come."