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Michelle Obama taking NATO spouses to Chicago's South Side: Her old neighborhood

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WASHINGTON--First Lady Michelle Obama will take the spouses of global leaders in Chicago for the NATO summit next May to her native South Side for a visit to the Gary Comer Youth Center, not far from where she was raised, the White House is announcing Wednesday.

It is traditional for the first ladies of a host county to plan a program for spouses; Mrs. Obama entertained spouses of global leaders when the G-20 met in Pittsburgh for a summit in 2009.

In Chicago, however, Mrs. Obama wants to throw a spotlight near her old community-- with a May 20 visit to the youth center, 7200 S. Ingleside. Mrs. Obama often speaks of growing up in a small apartment at 7436 S. Euclid.

President Obama will host what is being billed as a "working dinner" with the NATO leaders on May 20 at Soldier Field, not far from the McCormick Place complex which is the headquarters for the the summit.

Mrs. Obama will also be throwing a spouse dinner that night--with one possible location the Symphony Center complex associated with the Chicago Symphony.

The White House said McCormick Place "will be the venue for Leader, Ministerial, and Senior Official events, as well as house the international press file center for the duration of the Summit on May 19-21."

Meanwhile, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, an exhibit on Chicago opens on Thursday, with a delegation from Chicago on hand led by Amy Rule, the wife of Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who is marking her first major public event with the trip to Belgium.

The kick-off the the Chicago exhibit will feature, besides Rule--who will make her speaking debut--NATO Secretary General Andres Rasmussen; Ambassador Ivo Daalder, United States Permanent Representative to NATO; Gov. Pat Quinn; Don Welch, the President & CEO of the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau and Lori Healey, the Executive Director of the Chicago NATO Host committee.

below, from the White House....

Office of the Press Secretary
March 21, 2012

Fact Sheet: United States to Host NATO Summit in Chicago

The United States will host the NATO Summit May 20 - 21, in Chicago, Illinois. President Obama looks forward to welcoming leaders from NATO member and partner nations to his hometown for the Summit of the world's most successful Alliance. At the NATO Summit, leaders will discuss the next major phase of transition in Afghanistan, agree to further steps to ensure NATO has the capabilities necessary to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and further broaden and deepen its relationships with non-NATO partners.

About NATO

NATO is a political and military alliance of 28 North American and European democracies that have joined together to defend their shared values. In addition to the United States, its other members include and Albania, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. The principle of collective defense is at the very heart of NATO and is enshrined in Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which asserts that an attack on one is an attack on all. NATO invoked Article 5 of the Washington Treaty for the first time in its history following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States.

Founded in 1949, NATO played a unique role in maintaining stability and security in the trans-Atlantic area during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War, the Alliance has transformed itself to meet the new challenges of the new century. Today, NATO leads the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, ensures a safe and secure environment in Kosovo through its KFOR mission, and contributes to international counter-piracy efforts off the Horn of Africa through Operation Ocean Shield. In 2011, NATO successfully carried out the UN-mandated mission in Libya to protect civilians, enforce a no-fly zone, and enforce a maritime arms embargo. The Alliance also completed its effective multi-year mission to provide training to the Iraqi National Security Forces at the end of last year. NATO also provides airlift and sealift support to the African Union (AU) missions in Somalia and Sudan and recently engaged in a number of humanitarian relief operations in recent years, including delivering over 100 tons of emergency supplies from Europe to the United States during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina crisis.

Recognizing that the security challenges allies face often emerge beyond Europe, NATO has become the hub of a global security network, establishing partnerships with over thirty countries. These ties provide opportunities for practical military cooperation and political dialogue. Partners have contributed significantly to NATO operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, and Libya.

How the Chicago Summit Came About

At NATO's Lisbon Summit in November 2010, President Obama proposed to host the next NATO Summit in the United States, an offer which was welcomed by Allies. In his June 22, 2011, speech on Afghanistan the President announced publicly that "next May, in Chicago, we will host a summit with our NATO allies and partners to shape the next phase of this transition." Given this unique opportunity to host world leaders, the President chose to show the world the best America has to offer in his hometown. Chicago is a diverse city, connected to the global economy, and has an increasing international profile. Chicago's vibrant diaspora communities are eager to join the President in welcoming visiting world leaders.

About the Summit Location

On Sunday, May 20, 2012 NATO Leaders will gather for a working dinner at Soldier Field. Chicago's McCormick Place will be the venue for Leader, Ministerial, and Senior Official events, as well as house the international press file center for the duration of the Summit on May 19-21.

About the Summit Spousal Program

First Lady Michelle Obama will host NATO Leaders' Spouses on Sunday, May 20, 2012 at the Gary Comer Youth Center on the South Side of Chicago - an area where Mrs. Obama grew up. The Center offers young people extracurricular activities and support to help prepare them to graduate from high school, and continue on to pursue college and meaningful careers.


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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 21, 2012 2:45 PM.

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