Image: Barack Obama
J. Scott Applewhite  /  AP file
President Barack Obama's parents and sister are graduates of the University of Hawaii. However, the president graduated from Columbia and received his law degree from Harvard.
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updated 11/15/2010 4:37:41 AM ET 2010-11-15T09:37:41

Barack Obama hasn't even finished the second year of his first term in the White House, but officials with two universities that are interested in building his presidential library are already positioning themselves to win the Hawaii-born president's favor.

The University of Hawaii is well into early preparations — including preliminary searches for potential sites, talks with National Archives officials and deliberations on what if any new academic center might accompany an Obama library and museum.

The University of Chicago, located in the city where Obama's political career began, signaled an interest a year ago but is saying very little now.

And Obama is saying even less. Asked to discuss Obama's views about a presidential library, a White House spokesman simply said, "No comment."

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Nonetheless, Hawaii is unabashed in wanting to be ready when the time comes to bid.

"This is something that presidents typically think about toward the end of their presidency, and Obama hopefully is still toward the beginning of his presidency," said Robert Perkinson, an American Studies professor who is helping lead UH's effort.

"So it's not surprising that (Obama) doesn't want to think about it. But those of us who are interested in bidding, we have to think about it a lot earlier than he does," Perkinson said.

There currently are 13 presidential libraries, spanning from Herbert Hoover through George W. Bush. The groundbreaking for Bush's facility at Southern Methodist University in Dallas is scheduled for Tuesday.

Presidents aren't required to establish libraries to house their records. But if they do, there are several rules on how that's accomplished.

For one, presidential libraries have to be privately financed — typically by a nonprofit foundation. Once built, they are turned over to the National Archives. Some libraries have received financial aid from state and local governments.

A law that took effect with Bush's library also requires the foundations to establish an endowment to help with operating expenses.

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The hosting institution may develop educational and cultural programs to be conducted at the library. It also can build an accompanying academic center akin to the John F. Kennedy, Jimmy Carter and Lyndon Johnson schools that were created in conjunction with their respective presidential libraries.

Curt Smith, a senior lecturer at the University of Rochester who wrote a book on presidential libraries, said presidents typically want an academic component attached.

An Obama presidential library and museum would be a unique resource for UH students, scholars and tourists, said Reed Dasenbrock, vice chancellor for academic affairs at UH Manoa.

'Repeat visitors'
It also would be an economic driver, he said, citing the $1.5 billion in activity and 300,000 annual visitors that ex-President Bill Clinton's library has brought to Little Rock, Ark., since 2005.

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"If I've been to Honolulu many times, why will I come back the 8th or 9th time? We do believe that (an Obama library) would be an additional attraction here that would bring repeat visitors as well as many first-time visitors," Dasenbrock added.

Also in UH's favor is the fact that Obama's parents and sister are graduates, although the president himself graduated from Columbia and received his law degree from Harvard.

Perkinson said Clinton's library was built in a warehouse district that has since revitalized, and offers not only research opportunities but cultural programs as well.

Video: New D.C. reality greets Obama upon return (on this page)

"It's a very beloved institution, as far as we can tell, within Little Rock, as I think it would be in Honolulu," he said.

Perkinson, Dasenbrock and other UH officials in September visited the Clinton library after talks with Archives administrators in Washington.

It's unclear whether the University of Chicago has taken similar steps. Its president, Robert Zimmer, told Bloomberg last year he was studying the benefits of having a presidential library on campus.

But last week, spokesman Jeremy Manier would say only that the university was fortunate to have once had Obama on its law school faculty and Michelle Obama in several senior administrative roles.

"It is premature to discuss a presidential library," Manier added.

A bid from the University of Chicago would be a potent rival to UH, Smith said.

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"I would think just as a layman that the University of Chicago might be very attractive. It's home for Obama. It's urban," said Smith.

As for Obama's interest in a library, it's not unexpected the White House would say almost nothing, said Smith, a speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush. To do otherwise, he said, would be seen as presumptuous.

But like previous presidents, Obama has the luxury of waiting for proposals to roll in from rival suitors, he said. "Cutthroat might be too strong a word but certainly competitive is not."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: New D.C. reality greets Obama upon return

  1. Transcript of: New D.C. reality greets Obama upon return

    HOLT: Good evening.

    LESTER HOLT, anchor: President Obama is back at the White House tonight, back home after his whirlwind trip to Asia . He set out on that trip just days after getting what he called a shellacking in the midterm elections. He'll barely have time to unpack his bags before confronting the challenges of Washington 's new political landscape, including a Republican challenge to one of his hallmark campaign pledges on taxes. NBC 's Mike Viqueira is at the White House to tell

    us about a very big week there. Mike: Good evening, Lester . After an Asia trip that saw both successes and letdowns, it doesn't get any easier for the president from here on out. Tomorrow that lame duck session of Congress begins, and Mr. Obama faces a Republican Party that is emboldened and Democrats trying to regroup. Back home after 10 days abroad, today President Obama stepped off Marine One and arrived home to a new Washington reality. Near Capitol Hill the Republicans were coming, some 85 of them, joining all newly elected candidates to learn the ropes and prepare for January when they are sworn in to a new GOP -ruled house.

    MIKE VIQUEIRA reporting: I look forward to representing my constituents and very thankful for their support.

    Representative JUSTIN AMASH (Republican, Michigan): But for now Democrats are still in charge. Tomorrow Nancy Pelosi convenes a lame duck session where a fight over renewing Bush era tax cuts looms. Amid signs Mr. Obama will soften his position and accept a temporary extension of cuts for the wealthy, today a top Obama aide would not tip the president's hand.

    VIQUEIRA: Is he open to compromise?

    DAVID GREGORY reporting: The answer to your question, there's no -- there's no bend on the permanent extension of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans .

    Mr. DAVID AXELROD: He's open to compromise?

    GREGORY: He wants to sit down -- we want to get this done. The American people expect to get this done, and we are -- we are eager to sit down and talk about how to move forward.

    Mr. AXELROD: But compromise is growing more likely. Today a conservative senator and tea party leader said he would go along with a temporary renewal.

    VIQUEIRA: Well, if that's all we could get out of the president, and he is the president, so we'll work with him on that.

    Senator JIM DeMINT (Republican, South Carolina): Much depends on Pelosi . Liberals are urging her and the president to draw the line on extending cuts for the wealthy. And today one party moderate announced a long shot challenge to Pelosi for the post of Democratic leader.

    VIQUEIRA: And if it comes down to this coming week and she doesn't step aside, then I will challenge her.

    Representative HEATH SHULER (Democrat, North Carolina): And while it isn't an official announcement, today top aide Axelrod , an architect of Mr. Obama 's 2008 run, gave a strong indication that the president will mount a 2012 bid for re-election.

    VIQUEIRA: Sometime in the spring -- late winter or early spring, I'll be going back -- coming back here to Chicago and beginning to work on that -- on that project.

    Mr. AXELROD: And, Lester , we may know more late Thursday about the outcome of that tax cut debate. That's when the president has invited all congressional leaders, Democrats and Republicans , House and Senate , here to the White House for a meeting and then he's going to take them upstairs for dinner and

    VIQUEIRA:

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