Obama returns home for first time as president

Neighbors excited to welcome first family home
February 13, 2009 9:40:45 PM PST
President Barack Obama and the first family are at home in Chicago for the weekend. Obama, his wife, Michelle, and daughters arrived in Chicago on Friday, their first trip home since they moved into the White House nearly a month ago. Aides said the president planned a low-key, four-day holiday weekend, including a Valentine's Day dinner on Saturday with his wife and a likely basketball game with friends.

A boost of flashing lights announced the president's arrival to his Kenwood neighborhood.

Now a lot has changed. Now Obama is the leader of a free world. And that means Secret Service and police presence along as well as White House staffers.

Vickye Pulliam lives down the street. She and others waited to greet the motorcade.

"It's the most awesomest thing in the whole wide word," said Vickye Pulliam, neighbor.

"We made this sign because we appreciate the president and he's cool," said Ahnday Huff , neighbor.

The president arrived on Air Force One, then took Marine One where the first family then got out and boarded the motorcade.

The president plans to take it easy with family and friends. He has no public evens plan. But a basketball game is probably in the plans as well as a Valentine's Day dinner at one of couple's favorite dinner. At this point the choice is top secret.

Neighbors have met all the extra security as inconvenient. But they say they have no complaints.

Jillian Montgomery's parents live two doors down and are good friends with Obama.

"On Thanksgiving, my parents invited him over our house. And they politely called and said, no you come over here," said Montgomery.

Earlier Friday, the House passed the $787 billion economic package that Obama had wanted to sign before he went on vacation. He was expected to watch on television at his Hyde Park home as the Senate cleared the bill for his signature.

Obama aides say the president plans a weekend largely out of sight, his first real break since his inauguration on Jan. 20. Last weekend, he flew by helicopter to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.

During the time between his election in November and his inauguration in January, Obama stayed in his Hyde Park home and maintained a standard routine: gym in the early morning hours, breakfast with his family, then work at his office. He sometimes ventured out for dinner at restaurants or at friends' houses, but that dropped off as he neared Inauguration Day.

Obama aides said they expected a similar agenda this trip, which was expected to last until Monday.

Kenwood excited to welcome home first family

The Kenwood area is familiar with a lot of rich and powerful people over the years. However, sitting president of the United States is by far the greatest status of anyone who has ever lived in the neighborhood. And Chicago is used to having presidents come into town for speeches or fundraisers but generally they then get back on a plane and go back to Washington. For Barack Obama, however, this is home.

Kenwood residents enjoyed a mild February day in the neighborhood on Friday. They carry on with normal life like teaching a child how to ride a bike, even in the midst of the massive security detail in place for the president's arrival.

"There's a lot more security of course. And we've been waylaid as to which streets we can walk down. And I don't even consider that an inconvenience. I think it's an honor actually," said Dianne Collins, neighbor.

Chicago police are everywhere, keeping a perimeter clear several blocks from the Obama family home. Secret Service officers are in the neighborhood and no parking signs line the streets. There are many inconveniences involved with living so close to the president's home. But we are hearing no complaints.

"In small doses, it's okay. He's our president. And he deserves it. So if they did it for other presidents I would expect to do it for him," said Georlette Peavy, neighbor.

It has been less than a month since Barack Obama's inauguration. And with the powers of the office come a much greater security force as well as presidential infrastructure. In many ways, 50th and Greenwood becomes a more important address than 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue this weekend.

Whenever Barack Obama comes home, neighbors are proud.

"I think we definitely think of him as part of our community. And to see him coming back as a real deal. It's pretty unbelievable," said Amanda Englert.

The president has no scheduled public events during his weekend in Chicago. He plans on spending down time with friends and family. We're told that he does have a Valentine's dinner scheduled. However, finding out what restaurant that might be at is akin to a state secret.

Security tight in Hyde Park

The security in Hyde Park was tight, at a heightened level, especially from Thursday, as Chicago prepares for the arrival of President Barack Obama and his family. It's Obama's first trip home since taking office, and it has Hyde Park all abuzz.

It's possible no one in Hyde Park is more excited about the homecoming of President Barack Obama than Mama Dee Love. She wears clothing adorned with news stories about Barack but also has decorated her car with newsprint to represent him as a driving political force.

"Family shots here, and in the back, and all, and then I said I got all this stuff left, and I got so much left, what am I going to do with it? And I thought of the Barack-mobile," said Love.

The president and the first family were set to return to their South Side neighborhood Friday evening. Aides say the president's four-day holiday will be a low-key venture and a break from the partisan divide over his economic stimulus package.

Obama's stay will include quality time with both family and friends. Barack Obama's Chicago barber hopes that the president will stop in for a visit and maybe even get a trim.

"Everybody is very excited, and we can't wait to see him, just to catch a glimpse of the motorcade going past, you know, so, yeah, we can't wait," said Zariff.

As expected, security in Obama's neighborhood is tighter than ever. There were police present monitoring streets and barricading streets and walkways. Authorities have restricted the airspace around the president's Hyde Park home, making it tough to get around.

"They're everywhere. Don't go down 51st Street! You will be turned around," said Michael Johnson, Hyde Park resident.

The street closures are all a part of the security perimeter around the president's home. Authorities are asking anyone around the area to use caution traveling. They are collecting I.D.s to make sure anyone who gets inside the perimeter has business there or lives there. Many Hyde Parkers are excited about Obama's return and looking for a glimpse of him, maybe even Saturday as he takes his wife out for a valentine's day dinner.

Obama was to make a Friday afternoon flight with his wife, Michelle, and daughters to his chilly hometown.

Congress this week reached a compromise on a $790 billion economic package that Obama had wanted to sign before he went on vacation. Instead, he was likely to see Congress pass it while watching C-SPAN.

"Diverse viewpoints are the lifeblood of our democracy. Debating them is how we learn from each other's perspective. We temper each other's excesses, we make better decisions," Obama said Thursday in Peoria, Ill., where he stumped for final passage of the massive tax cutting and spending bill aimed at jolting the economy back to life.

"But the debate is now coming to an end. ... It is time for Congress to act, and I hope they act in a bipartisan fashion."

But even as he anticipated victory on the stimulus bill, he suffered a major setback when a third member of his Cabinet withdrew his name from nomination. This time, New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg said he would remain in the Senate and decline a job running the Commerce Department, the second person to withdraw from consideration for the post.

"The one thing I want to make sure of is that people don't take from this the notion that we can't get Democrats and Republicans working together," Obama told reporters after Air Force One landed in Springfield, Ill., where the president spoke at a dinner marking the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln's birth. "I am going to keep on working at this and eventually we are going to break down some of these barriers."

Obama aides say the president plans a weekend largely out of sight, his first real break since his inauguration on Jan. 20. Last weekend he flew by helicopter to the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.

During the time between his election in November and his inauguration in January, Obama stayed in his Hyde Park home and kept a predictable routine: gym in the early morning hours, breakfast with his family, then work at his office. He sometimes ventured out for dinner at restaurants or at friends' houses, but that dropped off as he neared Inauguration Day.

Obama aides said they expected a similar agenda this trip, which was expected to last until Monday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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