It was fitting that the weather was cold for a ceremony Wednesday, dedicating a plaque that commemorates former President Barack Obama’s key campaign moments at the Old State Capitol in Springfield.
Obama launched his White House bid on Feb. 10, 2007. He spoke to thousands who braved freezing temperatures to see and hear the then-U.S. Senator.
This week, Gov. JB Pritzker, fellow Democratic leaders and others stood in the warmth of the building’s House chamber to unveil the new marker. Pritzker said Obama used the building as a backdrop to lay out his vision.
“A vision where change is possible, progress is near and hope would prevail above all. 15 years, four presidential elections and one pandemic later, that vision remains as powerful as ever. 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,” Obama said.
Obama would return to Springfield the following year as he announced Joe Biden as his running mate. He chose the same location to introduce Biden.
Illinois Senate President Don Harmon worked with Obama when both were new lawmakers.
“President Obama’s colleagues in the (Illinois) senate always knew he was bound for bigger things,” said Harmon. “Although even we could not have predicted the meteoric rise from senator to president in four years.”
The Old State Capitol served as the Illinois statehouse from 1840 to 1876 and is the site where Abraham Lincoln delivered his famous “House Divided” speech. That history was why Obama chose it to kickoff his campaign.
Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch said he watched Obama from afar, and he became a role model to him.
“He launched what many of us believed was generational change. He inspired all us to believe change was coming. Change we could believe in,” said Welch.
The plaque was designed by local graphic artist Michael Patrick and made by Ace Sign Company in Springfield. Measuring more than five feet tall and more than four feet across, the It will be displayed outside on the Old State Capitol grounds, one of the main tourist sites in the community.
The Obama Foundation’s Michael Strautmanis said the capital city is an important place for the former president.
“It was Springfield where he came together and started to pass legislation to make a difference in people’s lives across the state of Illinois. This place stands not just for democracy. But it stands for the face that Democracy can work.”
Strautmanis added that when the Obama Presidential Center opens in 2026 on Chicago’s south side, he expects visitors will also travel to Springfield see the locations that played important roles in Obama’s political career.
Doris Turner, a state senator from Springfield, attended the Obama events in 2007. She mentioned the plaque is about more than historical moments in time.
“I hope they think of the kind man, who continues to devote his life to change,” Turner said.