No Go For State Holiday Honoring Obama

Aug 9, 2016

President Barack Obama came back to Springfield in February 2016 to give a speech before a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly.
Credit Pool photo by Terrence Antonio James / Chicago Tribune

A would-be state holiday passed last week without notice in Illinois. But supporters are hoping it will be recognized in the future.

Beyonce, George Lucas, and Magic Johnson were among the stars on the guest list for President Barack Obama's White House 55th birthday party (Obama's former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, scored an invite too).

But back in his adopted home state, the day came and went with little recognition, to the disappointment of State representative André Thapedi, a Chicago Democrat. He's proposed making August 4 a state holiday.

"Texas recognizes the birthday of LBJ. Missouri celebrates the birthday of Harry S. Truman. Alabama pauses to celebrate the birthday of Thomas Jefferson. California even recognizes Ronald Reagan's birthday, and they did so before his death," Thapedi said.

Thapedi says as the nation's first black president (and a Nobel Laureate) Obama is also deserving.

"In my view and a lot of my colleagues' view, those distinctions in and of themselves are more than enough reasons to honor him in Illinois," Thapedi said.

But an estimate by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's budget office says it'd cost Illinois $3.2 million to give state workers the day off, and the government would lose $16 million in their lost productivity.

Thapedi's suspects those numbers are inflated, but he says he laid off on the plan given the state's pressing budget issues.

Kids anxious for another day off school, listen up: Thapedi says once the state's fiscal house is in order, he'll try again.