Los Angeles political leaders officially unveiled ‘Obama Boulevard’ on Saturday in honor of the 44th president of the United States.
The ceremony capped a day-long street festival that took place where the newly-named street intersects with Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. An estimated crowd of more than 23,000 people assembled to pay tribute to Barack H. Obama, who was elected president in 2008 and served for two terms.
“With this change, we are publicly documenting what Obama’s legacy as our nation’s first black President means to our city and our South Los Angeles community,” said Los Angeles City Council President Herb J. Wesson, who introduced the motion to honor Obama.
“For every child who will drive down this street and see the name of the first Black President of our country, this boulevard will serve as a physical reminder that no goal is out of reach and that no dream is too big.”
Obama briefly resided in the Los Angeles area while attending Occidental College from 1979-1981.
Obama Boulevard replaces a 3.5-mile stretch formerly known as Rodeo Road, not to be confused with Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. It runs through a predominately black neighborhood that includes Rancho Cienega Park, where Obama held his first L.A. presidential campaign rally in February 2007.
While Mr. Obama was unable to attend the dedication ceremony, he did express his gratitude in a letter to the tens of thousands of people who gathered to celebrate the name change:
Twelve years ago, we met in this park. I’d just announced my candidacy for President. I was excited to come back to this city that means so much to me; the place where I delivered my first political speech as a much younger man, a college student at Oxy, still in the early stages of trying to find my purpose in life. And to come back here, to see so many of you fired up about a movement for change – it fueled me for the long campaign to come.
But here’s the thing: that campaign; those eight years in the White House – it was never about me. It was always about you. It was about us, and what we could do together to bring this country we love more in line with our founding ideals. We knew our work wouldn’t be finished in one presidency. But we believed that our efforts could make America a more equal, more just, and more hopeful place – and that we could teach our kids to pick up our work and carry it even further.
That work goes on. And while Michelle, Malia, Sasha, and I are so humbled by this day, we’re still mindful that it’s not about us. It’s about this neighborhood’s next generation, and all we want for them. We hope they’ll look to these new street signs and find inspiration in all that a group of committed citizens can achieve together – and that all of you will rally around them to build a better community, a better L.A., and a better country where every single one of us can reach our full potential.
The Los Angeles Times described the name change as “a symbol of hope – and resistance – for” the area Obama Blvd. travels across. According to the Times, the idea to rename Rodeo Road was first pitched by Joel Schroeder and Lynne Slattery Schroeder, two residents who have lived in the neighborhood for nine years.
“After the 2016 election, I think for a lot of people, including myself, it just felt like all dignity had left the White House,” Schroeder told the L.A. Times. “Obama was someone who was trying to bring together diverse groups of people from all different backgrounds, and that’s a lot of what our neighborhood is and what this city is.”
“For our first African American president and in my neighborhood – a proud African American neighborhood – it just seemed perfect. It was important to make sure Los Angeles honored his presidency.”
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @JeffreyCawood.