Since he left office in January, former President Barack Obama has kept a low-key lifestyle: vacationing in the British Virgin Islands, kitesurfing with Richard Branson, and spending time with Michelle, Malia, and Sasha. But he got a special present last week when the governor declared August 4 Barack Obama Day in Illinois.
The date coincides with the former president's birthday, and will be observed starting in 2018. According to the bill signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, the holiday will be:
"Observed throughout the State as a day set apart to honor the 44th President of the United States of America who began his career serving the People of Illinois in both the Illinois State Senate and the United States Senate, and dedicated his life to protecting the rights of Americans and building bridges across communities."
Senate Bill 55 pass unanimously in both houses in the state earlier in the year, although several lawmakers abstained from voting, according to NBC News.
Back in March, state lawmakers rejected a bill to make Obama's holiday a legal state holiday, in which schools and state offices would have closed and banks and business had the option to close. However, Gov. Rauner and several Republicans argued against it because of the economic cost of shutting down schools and state offices for the day. Estimates put the cost at $20 million ($3.2 in personnel and $16 million in lost productivity) for a day of shutting down the city.
Instead, the state legislators decided to honor Obama with a day to remember his work in Chicago and as president. According to Fox News, the bill also acknowledges Obama's efforts to build bridges across communities and protect Americans' rights.
Obama isn't the only president who called Illinois home. Ronald Reagan also lived in the state, but he doesn't have a legal holiday there.
Gov. Rauner told the Chicago Tribune, "It’s incredibly proud for Illinois that the president came from Illinois. I think it’s awesome, and I think we should celebrate it. I don’t think it should be a formal holiday with paid, forced time off, but I think it should be a day of acknowledgment and celebration.
It's certainly a meaningful action from a state where Obama served as an Illinois senator from 1997 to 2004, where he then represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate before his ascent to president in 2008.
As for Obama's 56th birthday last week, he reportedly celebrated it in D.C. with Michelle.