News and Commentary

Illinois Creates ‘Barack Obama Day’ — But Snubs Native Ronald Reagan

No, workers don’t get a day off — and they don’t get to keep their doctor, either.

The state of Illinois has declared August 4 — former President Barack Obama’s birthday — an official state holiday. Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed into law a measure to deem the day “Barack Obama Day” across Illinois.

The holiday will be “observed throughout the state as a day set apart to honor the 44th President of the United States of America who began his career serving the people of Illinois in both the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate, and dedicated his life to protecting the rights of Americans and building bridges across communities,” the Senate bill said.

The holiday won’t go into effect until 2018. The bill passed both houses without a no vote.

Lawmakers tried to make the day a full holiday — paid time off, schools and state offices closed — but some lawmakers balked and the governor did not support the idea. Still, Rauner said he thought it’s “awesome” that the president “came from Illinois … and I think we should celebrate it.”

But, of course, Obama doesn’t “come” from Illinois. He was born in Kenya. Wait, Hawaii. As a youth, he lived in Seattle, then Indonesia, then with his white grandparents in Honolulu. He then lived in Los Angeles before attending Columbia and living in New York City.

It wasn’t until the 1980s, when he was in his 20s, that he went to Chicago, where he worked as a community advisor. And after his time in the White House, the Obamas decided not to move to Chicago, where they own a home, but rather to buy houses in Palm Springs, California, and Honolulu.

The state of Illinois has altogether ignored another of its famous political sons: Ronald Reagan. The Gipper was born in an apartment on the second floor of a commercial building in Tampico, Illinois, in 1911. The Reagans lived all over the state — Monmouth, Galesburg, Chicago, Dixon. He even attended college in Illinois at Eureka College.

Yet good ol’ Dutch has no such holiday in Illinois, perhaps the state’s most famous son. Some state lawmakers had objected to the Obama holiday because Reagan didn’t have one, but in the end they all acquiesced.

On the other hand, Obama does have one honor in the state that totally suits him. A stretch of Interstate 55 from the Tri-State Tollway to East St. Louis is deemed the “Barack Obama Presidential Expressway.” And that seems about right.