Two years ago, I joined with my hometown brothers and sisters to celebrate George Lucas and Mellody Hobson's decision to gift the city three-quarters of a billion dollars for the construction of a museum dedicated to the art of storytelling. I believe that world-class cities demand world-class institutions, and having worked with Mellody Hobson and been a beneficiary of her giving in the past, I felt a sense of pride that she and her husband were making a bet on the future of Chicago.
Today we stand at the precipice of losing this generational gift on account of the obstruction mounted by the so-called Friends of the Parks. This is unacceptable—it is unacceptable that a group of unelected, unaccountable elites have the temerity to stand up and say they speak on behalf of our city's "public trust."
Let me be clear—the Friends of the Parks have proven that they are no friends of Chicago. They have shown that they speak not for my community, not for the people who are dying every day in our city's streets; rather, they speak for a small group of elites obsessed with preserving the past and imperiling our collective future.
First, let us look at what the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art is and how it came to be. The museum promises to be one of the greatest and important art museums built in the 21st Century. It will house a priceless collection of visual art—paintings, sculpture and film—that people from all over the world will come to see. But more than that, and more important to me, is the educational opportunity that will be at the core of the museum's mission. If the vision for it is realized, it will be a classroom for imagination intended to explain how great stories are created and why they matter.
I am a preacher. Storytelling is an important part of my calling. Stories connect people. They bring us closer together. They allow us to recognize our common humanity. They elicit empathy and emotion, understanding and imagination. Anyone who's ever been riveted by a good book or film, song or painting can appreciate the art of storytelling. This museum is merely a celebration of that art.
At a time when we see too much division and too much fear; when we see communities thriving but others suffering; when there is too much mistrust, too much hate and not enough inspiration—it was my sincere, and perhaps naive, hope that we would have a destination that emphasizes our common humanity. It was my hope that we would have a destination that encourages new thinking and new bonds between all of us.
So where does this leave us right now? Friends of the Parks has committed to block the recent proposal to build the Lucas Museum on the site of McCormick Place East and further refused to consider any possible lakefront location. Friends of the Parks itself acknowledges these substantial educational and economic benefits but flatly refuses to consider a location that will make them a reality and that will be the most accessible to our children.