Residents of Pasadena and City officials gathered Saturday to unveil a plaque at the site where President Barack Obama once resided while a student at Occidental College in Los Angeles.
The plaque says that the “future 44th president of the United States” lived at the address, an apartment building at 253 E. Glenarm Street, from 1980 to 1981.
Obama attended Occidental College in 1979 to 1981. A post on the Pasadena Public Library website said the president lived in the Haines Hall dorm in-campus and then probably moved into the Glenarm apartment after the beginning of 1980, before he transferred to Columbia University in 1981.
Saturday’s ceremony, attended by about 150 people, was the culmination of about five years of research which started when the president mentioned, fondly, to Pasadena City Councilmember Steve Madison that he once lived in Pasadena.
“I was lucky enough to meet President Obama for the first time 2007 when he was just starting the campaign for president,” Madison said in a speech at Saturday’s ceremony.” I mentioned I was on the City Council in Pasadena, and his eyes lit up. He said ‘I love Pasadena.’ He said ‘I lived in Pasadena my sophomore year when I was at Occidental College, and I had a great time when I was in Pasadena.’”
Obama then could not remember what street he lived in, and just said the street’s name starts with a “G,” Madison related.
After that meeting, Madison said he worked with staff from the City Manager’s office, the library, and Occidental College to finally come up with the facts about Obama’s Pasadena apartment.
Pasadena City Mayor Terry Tornek congratulated the efforts of the City’s Councilmembers, City Hall and library staff for finally coming up with facts that became the basis for the plaque’s dedication.
“Who would have ever expected that a young man with a very diverse background would be here and go on to be the 44th president of the United States?” Tornek said. “Pasadena has long honored and been interested in and celebrated its built environment and very much the people who have lived in it. And I think our interest in that has served us well because it enriches our community to know where we’ve come from and what we’re about.”
Tornek said he hoped people, especially young students at schools nearby, would “happen by this plaque and be inspired to do something great in the future.”
Councilmember Andy Wilson mentioned that numerous other famous Pasadena personalities, including Julia Child and Albert Einstein, had also resided nearby at various times.
The plaque, Wilson said, is “an incredible way to give back to our community.”
“I look at this plaque as a way to celebrate eight years of service from out president and hopefully inspire people to provide and get involved in service,” Wilson said. “I think it’s a bit of a challenging time to think of service, but without people who give their time to serve our community, we don’t have leadership.”
Councilmember John Kennedy said he hopes President Obama would “come back to Pasadena, his home.” Kennedy said he has had a number of opportunities to meet with the president and has always reminded him of the standing invitation to visit.
“Pasadena was part of his formative years in terms of leadership,” Kennedy said. “He gave one of his first speeches here in the City of Pasadena.”
In his speech at the dedication ceremony, Kennedy included a personal appeal to the president.
“All of the good people, the ordinary people of the City of Pasadena are welcoming you home. You promised us that you would come to Pasadena before you left office, and we will hold you to that promise because you are a man of integrity,” Kennedy said, with a smile.