CHICAGO — The Obama Foundation announced Jeff Bezos is giving $100M – the largest individual contribution received to date—in honor of civil rights icon Congressman John Lewis, and to help expand the scope of programming that reaches emerging leaders in the United States and around the world. As part of the gift, Bezos has asked for the Plaza at the Obama Presidential Center to be named the John Lewis Plaza. The Plaza is an important amenity to the surrounding community and will welcome nearly a million visitors a year.
“John believed in the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things,” said Michael Collins, Trustee, John R. Lewis Estate. “His life was a testament to this notion and he would be a fierce advocate for the training and support needed to inspire the next generation of leaders to follow in his footsteps.”
The Obama Foundation’s mission is to inspire, empower, and connect emerging domestic and global leaders to change their respective communities and the world. Through the gift from Bezos the next generation of emerging leaders will be provided the necessary tools, resources, and training needed to be the change they want to see in the world, just as Congressman Lewis did.
“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” said Jeff Bezos. “I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders.”
With the gift from Bezos, the Foundation is seeking to change the paradigm around naming public spaces within the Center, using it as an opportunity to give donors the option to honor and elevate the names of those who have fought for a more just and equitable world. Dedicated public spaces at the Center will honor civil rights icons, social justice heroes, and changemakers in public service, business and entertainment.
“We believe that there is incredible power in lifting up the names of extraordinary change agents upon whose shoulders we all stand, and we are thrilled by Mr. Bezos’ offer to name our magnificent Plaza in honor of John Lewis,” said Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett. “What’s more, Mr. Bezos’ generous unrestricted gift will enable us to help train a new generation of leaders through programs including the Girls Opportunity Alliance, My Brother’s Keeper, and our Global Leaders Program, while also supporting the Foundation’s Hometown Fund, which invests in the expansion of economic development opportunities for residents of Chicago’s South Side.”
More information on the Obama Foundation’s domestic and global programming can be found here.
The Obama Presidential Center broke ground in September of 2021 and is expected to be completed by 2025.