Illinois Makes “Barack Obama Day” State Holiday
Former President Barack Obama got a special present for his birthday this year: his very own holiday. According to NBC Chicago, on Friday Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law a measure to designate Aug. 4 as “Barack Obama Day” across the state. The holiday will be celebrated each year on Obama’s birthday beginning in 2018.
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,” Senate Bill 55 reads.
Gov. Rauner praised the idea behind the bill earlier this year after a previous version, which would have made the day a legal state holiday, failed. The new holiday is commemorative.
“It’s incredibly proud for Illinois that the president came from Illinois. I think it’s awesome, and I think we should celebrate it,” Rauner told reporters in February. “I don’t think it should be a formal holiday with paid, forced time off, but I think it should be a day of acknowledgment and celebration.”
SB 55 was introduced by Sen. Emil Jones III, the son of former Senate President Emil Jones, Jr., who played a major role in launching then-state Senator Obama to the U.S. Senate in 2004 and considers himself to be the former president’s political “godfather.” While several lawmakers abstained from voting on the measure, it passed both houses without a single vote against.
“Barack Obama Day” joins other commemorative holidays like Adlai Stevenson Day, Ronald Reagan Day and Jane Addams Day, for which workplaces do not close.
Local legislators also voted in July to rename part of a Chicago-area highway after their former colleague, designating the stretch of Interstate 55 from the Tri-State Tollway south to mile marker 202 near Pontiac as the “Barack Obama Presidential Expressway.”
On Friday, Obama celebrated his 56th birthday, his first since leaving the White House, with Michelle Obama at Rasika West End in Washington, D.C.
Also on Friday morning, Joe Biden wished Obama happy birthday on Twitter Friday morning. “Your service has been a great gift to the country, and your friendship and brotherhood are a great gift to me. Happy birthday, Barack.”