WOODLAWN — Jeff Bezos donated $100 million to the Obama Foundation and requested the Obama Presidential Center’s plaza be named for the late congressman and civil rights activist John Lewis, foundation officials announced Monday.
The donation came without restrictions on how funds can be spent, foundation CEO Valerie Jarrett said. The gift will support South Side workforce development through the foundation’s Hometown Fund, announced in April as part of a fundraising campaign to build the presidential center in Jackson Park.
Bezos’ donation will also benefit the foundation’s youth leadership programs in the U.S. and abroad, including My Brother’s Keeper, the Girls Opportunity Alliance and the Global Leaders Program, officials said.
“I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders,” Bezos said in a statement.
Following Bezos’ request to name the Obama Center’s plaza after Lewis, the foundation will give donors the option to dedicate public spaces at the center in honor of “civil rights icons, social justice heroes and changemakers,” Jarrett said in a statement.
“We believe that there is incredible power in lifting up the names of extraordinary change agents upon whose shoulders we all stand, and we are thrilled by Mr. Bezos’ offer to name our magnificent plaza in honor of John Lewis,” Jarrett said.
Bezos’ gift is the largest-ever individual contribution to the Obama Foundation, officials said.
Bezos, the Amazon founder whose net worth is valued at more than $200 billion, paid no income taxes in 2007 and 2011, ProPublica reported in June. Philanthropic giving allows for many of the richest U.S. citizens to receive “large charitable tax deductions during their lifetimes,” according to the report.
Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama, Gov. JB Pritzker, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other officials celebrated the Obama Presidential Center’s groundbreaking in Jackson Park in September.
Its construction follows years of legal challenges and intense debate over its location, economic benefit to the South Side and potential impacts on housing in nearby communities, among other issues.
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