Amazon founder Jeff Bezos gave the Obama Foundation a gift of $100 million, with no direction as to how the money should be spent.
The donation, first reported by Puck News and then announced by the Obama Foundation, is the largest in the foundation’s history and is in the honor of deceased Congressman John Lewis. Though there are no conditions attached to the donation controlling how the money will be spent, Bezos did request for the Plaza at the Obama Presidential Center, currently under construction and located in Chicago, to be named the John Lewis Plaza.
“John believed in the power of ordinary people to do extraordinary things,” Michael Collins, trustee of the John R. Lewis Estate, said in the announcement. “His life was a testament to this notion and he would be a fierce advocate for the training and support needed to inspire the next generation of leaders to follow in his footsteps.”
The Obama Presidential Center is estimated to cost $830 million, the Associated Press reported, and be completed by 2025.
The Obama Foundation said it hoped that Bezos’ request to name the plaza after Lewis would change the “paradigm” around naming public spaces through donations.
The donation was organized by Jay Carney, former press secretary to ex-President Barack Obama and current vice president of global affairs at Amazon, Puck reported. The money will be used to “help expand the scope of programming that reaches emerging leaders in the United States and around the world,” according to the announcement.
Bezos said he chose to name the plaza after Lewis due to the late Congressman’s work advocating for civil rights.
“Freedom fighters deserve a special place in the pantheon of heroes, and I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this gift than John Lewis, a great American leader and a man of extraordinary decency and courage,” Bezos said in the announcement.
“I’m thrilled to support President and Mrs. Obama and their Foundation in its mission to train and inspire tomorrow’s leaders,” he added.
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