Historical marker commemorating Obama’s presidential campaign announcements in Springfield to be placed on Old State Capitol lawn

Jayette Bolinski

Today marks 15 years since 44th president's historic 2007 announcement

SPRINGFIELD – A historical marker will be erected later this year on the grounds of the Old State Capitol to commemorate Barack Obama’s momentous 2007 and 2008 presidential campaign announcements from the building’s lawn.

The Old State Capitol Foundation and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced the plan today, the 15th anniversary of Obama’s Feb. 10, 2007, announcement in Springfield that he would seek the presidency. He went on to make history as the first African American elected president of the United States and the fourth Illinoisan elected to the office.

“From his official presidential announcement to his service in the Statehouse, President Obama’s legacy of leadership began with his service to the people of Illinois,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “This marker of Obama’s historic announcement at the Old State Capitol will ensure his story will forever be a part of Illinois’ history. And alongside the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, this marker brings another presidential monument to Springfield, fostering tourism from visitors near and far alike.”

Obama, a former Illinois state lawmaker, was a U.S. senator representing Illinois when he announced his bid for the presidency from the Old State Capitol with his family. The announcement attracted statewide, national, and international attention to Springfield and the Old State Capitol.

“Thousands of people came out on that cold, wintry day 15 years ago to hear Barack Obama’s historic announcement,” said David Joens, president of the Old State Capitol Foundation. “He chose to announce his candidacy at the Old State Capitol because of its historic ties to Abraham Lincoln, but he was also making history himself. That history needs to be recognized, and a permanent marker will do that.”

Valerie Jarrett, chief executive officer of the Obama Foundation said Feb. 10, 2007, was an unforgettable day.

“I will never forget watching 17,000 people come together in Springfield to watch then-Senator Obama announce his candidacy for president. That day and the campaign that followed was a testament to the power of ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things, an idea and legacy that we’re carrying forward through the work of the Obama Foundation,” Jarrett said. “I am thrilled that the Old State Capitol Foundation and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will help preserve the significance of that history for future generations with this marker.”

Eighteen months later, on Aug. 23, 2008, Obama returned to the Old State Capitol for another major announcement – that U.S. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware would be his running mate. Again, Springfield and the Old State Capitol became the focus of international attention.

Obama was elected the nation’s 44th president on Nov. 4, 2008, and Biden became vice president. Both served two terms, and Biden went on to be elected president in his own right in 2020.

“President Obama chose Springfield to launch his campaign, in part because of its proud history as the place where President Lincoln began his presidential campaign, but also because it’s where folks from diverse walks of life and perspectives come to be heard,” said Anita Decker Breckenridge, who is President Obama’s current chief of staff, served as the downstate director of his Senate office and helped organize the 2007 announcement. “His campaign was organized around listening to folks and bringing them together to find solutions, and that has continued to be his focus in his post-presidency.

Artists’ renderings of the historical marker have been completed. The marker will be placed on the Old State Capitol lawn in a public ceremony later this year.

“Barack Obama’s historic announcements from the Old State Capitol were significant events in Illinois history, and it’s entirely appropriate that we pause today to reflect on their importance during Black History Month,” said Colleen Callahan, director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

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.

"This historical marker will stand as a reminder of the barriers Barack Obama tore down, beginning on the day he announced his run to become the first African American president in U.S. history," said Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton. "He inspired so many, including myself, to run for office and see themselves represented in rooms where decisions are made. It is amazing to see this history immortalized in Springfield so that future generations can be galvanized by the progress that momentous day symbolizes."

Obama Marker at the Old State Capitol