After enjoying breakfast at Valois, the leader of the free world stops at the southeast corner of 53rd and Blackstone to shake hands with Hyde Parkers in May 2014. (Photography by Tom Tian, AB'10)

Presidential visit

A college student reflects on having President Obama as a neighbor.

On a late October morning as I left my apartment, I immediately knew President Obama was going to be home soon.

Maybe I felt it in the fall air, maybe I was briefly psychic. More likely, I noticed that there were, once again, more police barriers than usual lining the street outside my apartment on East Hyde Park Boulevard.

I know the drill by now.

After a bit of Googling, I figured out President Obama was speaking at the International Association of Chiefs of Police conference at McCormick Place. It was a brief trip to 60615—he left the next day.

It’s strange living across from President Obama’s house. That’s especially true amid all the speculation about where he’ll end up, and what he’ll do, after his term ends. Though the Obama Presidential Center is coming to the South Side, the Obamas themselves aren’t expected to reestablish permanent residency on East Hyde Park Boulevard.

What was it like to live in my apartment building before the Secret Service became a permanent fixture across the street? Will that stretch of sidewalk on the north side, in my perception eternally adorned with black vans, reopen for pedestrian traffic?

But I didn’t dwell long on these questions. Instead, I prepared for the automobile detours and parking struggles. I found a piece of mail to carry with me so I could prove to the police officers who guarded the vicinity of my home that, yes, I live here.

In some way, I feel a connection between my looming graduation and the end of the Obama presidency. Campaign season is in full swing. It’s a time of reflection about what’s changed in the seven years since Obama took office.

For me and others my age, his terms have roughly lined up with significant shifts in our lives. When Obama took office, I had just started high school. When he won a second term, I was a new college student. When the next president takes office, I’ll be a freshly minted college graduate.

I’m not sure where I’m going to be and what I’m going to be doing a year from now. And that’s scary, but at least I don’t have to count on the American populace at large to elect me to my next job.

Maybe Obama’s recent visit was one of his last such visits as president. I don’t know. But it’s kind of comforting to know that, one day, President Obama and I might be nostalgic for the same stretch of East Hyde Park Boulevard.