Obama thanks Chicago, departs from Soldier Field

May 21, 2012 (CHICAGO)

"If you talk to leaders from around the world, they loved the city. Michelle took some of the spouses down to the south side to see the Comer Center where wonderful stuff is being done with early education. They saw the Art Institute, you know," President Obama said during Monday's news conference.

While President Obama met with dozens of world leaders at McCormick Place, protesters marched and rallied against NATO downtown. He thanked Chicagoans for their patience during those protests, the road closures and extra public transit checks that come with heightened security.

"Obviously Rahm (Emanuel) was stressed, but he performed wonderfully and the Chicago police, Chicago's finest, did a great job under, you know, some significant pressure and a lot of scrutiny," Obama said during a press conference Monday afternoon.

President Obama said he "could not have been prouder" of his hometown. He's sending NATO attendees home with a few mementos.

" We gave each leader a Bean, a small model for them to remember, as well as a football from Soldier Field. Many of them did not know what to do with it," Obama said. Obama took world leaders down on to the grass of Soldier Field and some visited Millennium Park's Cloudgate sculpture, commonly referred to as The Bean.

He then thanked Chicagoans for putting up with the traffic.

"Obviously Chicago residents who had difficulties getting home or getting to work or what have you, you know, that's what can I tell you, that's part of the price of being a world city," Obama said. "And if it makes those folks feel any better, despite being 15 minutes away from my house, nobody would let me go home. I was thinking I would be able to sleep in my own bed one night and they said I would cause even worse traffic."

Obama ended up staying in a downtown hotel.

Obama's helicopter took off from Soldier Field at 4:25 p.m.

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