On Barack Obama's 61st Birthday, He Remembers His Late Mother — and Reveals New Project to Honor Her

Barack Obama as a child in Hawaii
Courtesy The Obama Foundation From left: Former President Barack Obama with his mother Ann Dunham in Hawaii in the 1960s
Barack Obama celebrates his 61st birthday by naming a new addition to the Obama Presidential Center in Chicago after his mother, Ann Dunham.
On Thursday, the 44th President announced that the Obama Presidential Center's water garden, which will be located near the center's north entrance garden, will be named after his mother.
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The water garden "will serve as a designated place on campus for reflection and relaxation" and an art installation by Maya Lin - the artist who created the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. has created - titled "Seeing Through the Universe" show what promises an Oculus that generates fog and a flat "pebble" piece that fills with water.
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"As we thought about how to commemorate my mother's influence on my sister and I, I thought about where she would like to be in this room," Obama said in a press release. "I could picture her sitting on one of the benches on a beautiful summer afternoon, smiling and watching a bunch of kids run through the fountain, and I thought that would capture her as much as anything else."
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Lin, 62, also created the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, and is one of Obama's personal favorite artists, according to Obama's team. In 2016, during his final months in the White House, Obama presented Lin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.
The Ann Dunham Water Garden, as the facility will be called, will be funded by contributions from the Obama administration and alumni from the former president's two presidential campaigns, according to the press release.
"It means so much to us that this gesture comes from the team that helped President Obama reach the White House and serve the American people," Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett said in a statement.
"President Obama's mother was an inspiration to him and embodied passion, curiosity and commitment," the statement continued. "Our hope is that the Ann Dunham Water Garden and the Obama Presidential Center will evoke the same qualities in our visitors."
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"Ann Dunham was the single most influential person in President Obama's life," reads a post on Jarrett Thursday's Obama Foundation website. “She had a strong belief in the power of human connection and the inherent dignity in all of us, values ​​that she instilled in her children. Decades later, a commitment to those same values ​​would inspire millions of Americans to join a movement that led President Obama to the White House.
Groundbreaking for the Obama Presidential Center took place in September 2021 and is expected to welcome more than 700,000 visitors annually to Chicago's South Side, where Obama grew up, when it opens in 2025.
Dunham, who was born Stanley Ann Dunham in Kansas in 1942, died of ovarian cancer in Hawaii in 1995, shortly before her 53rd birthday, according to the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund website.
Celebrating his birthday, Michelle Obama wrote a sweet tribute to her 'sweetheart' on Thursday, writing: 'Life with you just gets better every year. You always make me proud.”
In the run-up to Obama's birthday, the White House Historical Association announced last week that he and Michelle will return to the White House on September 7 to unveil their official White House portraits, which will be permanently hung in the presidential residence.
Barack Obama
President of the United States from 2009 to 2017
MichelleObama
Former First Lady of the United States
Anne Dunham
American anthropologist, mother of Barack Obama
Maya Lin
American sculptor and architect

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