South Dakota City Unveils Statue in Honor of Former President Barack Obama

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Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Philadelphia, PA, on October 11, 2008 (Shutterstock).

Former President Barack Obama is being honored in Rapid City, South Dakota with a statue . 

The statue of the 44th President of the US was unveiled on July 15 as part of the City of Presidents project, the Rapid City Journal reported. The statue will sit alongside other presidential statues like John F. Kennedy, George Washington, George Bush Sr., Bill Clinton, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Franklin D Roosevelt, and many others.

The statue, which was made by sculptor James Van Nuys, depicts Obama waving while holding his daughter Sasha’s hand. Dallerie Davis of the City of Presidents projects told the Rapid City Journal one idea they had was to depict Obama walking and waving across pavers of the names of civil rights leaders, but scrapped the idea because they felt it was boring. 

“But it was boring,” Davis told the publication. “A man waving isn’t a show stopper.”

The picture used for the sculpture was the iconic photo of Obama walking hand-in-hand with Sasha when he took the stage at his first inauguration. Van Nuys, who has sculpted three of the other presidential statues, told the Rapid City Journal that he spent 400 to 500 hours on the statue. He told the newspaper how happy he was to see the large crowd gather to see the statue. 

“How could you not be happy,” Van Nuys told the publication. “We have never had a crowd like this before.”

The City of Presidents is a series of life-size bronze statues that are located in historic downtown Rapid City and is part of the Rapid City Historic District Tour. The project to build the statues began in 2000 “to honor the legacy of the American presidency.”  

“Each of the sculptures is privately funded, and the pattern of placement was chosen to maintain a coherent structure and eliminate any sense of favoritism or political gain,” the city’s website states. 

The Obama statue will be placed on the southwest corner of the intersection of 4th and St. Joseph streets in Rapid City, according to the Rapid City Journal

Former President Obama made history in November 2008 when he was elected as the first Black president of the US. He served a second term as president when he was elected again in November 2012. After leaving office, he has focused on the Obama Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports causes like gun control and health care. 

The statue is not the first public recognition of the 44th president. In May, city officials in Los Angeles, California, unveiled Obama Boulevard to honor the former president. The unveiling included a free music and street festival with celebrity musical guests, vendors, and food trucks. The festival and unveiling ceremony was organized by Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles Urban League, Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.), and LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Obama Boulevard replaced Rodeo Road, which is a 3.5-mile street that starts at Culver City and runs to Mid-City Los Angeles. The boulevard intersects Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and is located in one of the city’s predominantly Black neighborhoods. The renamed street is also nearby George Washington Boulevard, Thomas Jefferson Boulevard and John Adams Boulevard. 

Wesson previously said that he was “thrilled” to honor the former president with the new street name. 

“I’m thrilled that Los Angeles will be home to Obama Boulevard,” Wesson said in a previous statement. “Our history is important and this is one way that we will ensure that America’s 44th president’s legacy is shared for generations to come for Angelenos and visitors alike.”

Wesson had proposed to rename Rodeo Road back in 2017. In August 2018, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously voted to change the name. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garacetti previously announced the news on Twitter and said that he was delighted to rename the road after Obama. 

“It’s official: our City Council has voted to rename Rodeo Road to Obama Boulevard!” Garcetti previously tweeted. “We’re thrilled that Angelenos and visitors will forever be reminded of the legacy of President @BarackObama when traveling across LA.”

 


About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.

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