The Obama Foundation announced Monday the receipt of its largest individual contribution to date: $100 million from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Though the gift is unrestricted, meaning the funds can be used for any purpose, Bezos did make one request: That as part of the donation, the plaza at the Obama Presidential Center be named the John Lewis Plaza in honor of civil rights icon John Lewis, who died in 2020.
“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,” Bezos said in a statement.
Future donors will have the option to name public spaces at the center for civil rights and social justice champions, as well as changemakers in public service, business and entertainment, the foundation said.
“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,” Obama Foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett said in a statement.
The plaza is part of the 20-acre Obama Center campus currently under construction, with an expected completion date of 2025. Former President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama attended the center's official groundbreaking in September, though there is still pending litigation challenging the center's location in historic Jackson Park.
At the same time, residents of South Shore continue to fight for a community benefits agreement that would protect them from the rise in housing prices the center is expected to create — an agreement their neighbors in Woodlawn successfully won.