Barack Obama to Close ALA’s Annual Conference

June 2, 2021

Barack Obama

The American Library Association (ALA) announced on June 2 that former President Barack Obama will be the Closing Session speaker at ALA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition Virtual on Tuesday, June 29, from noon–1 p.m. Central. The full statement follows.

Former President of the United States Barack Obama will close ALA’s 2021 Annual Conference and Exhibition Virtual Closing Session. He will appear noon–1 p.m. Central on Tuesday, June 29, in conversation with Lonnie G. Bunch III, the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution and first African American appointed to the role. They will be introduced by ALA President Julius C. Jefferson Jr.

Obama will discuss A Promised Land, the stirring first volume of his presidential memoirs that was released in November 2020 by Crown, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House. In it, Obama tells the story of his improbable odyssey from young man searching for his identity to leader of the free world, describing in strikingly personal detail both his political education and the landmark moments of the first term of his historic presidency—a time of dramatic transformation and turmoil.

Few presidents have walked a more improbable path to the White House. Born in Hawaii to a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, Barack Obama was raised with help from his grandparents, whose generosity of spirit reflected their Midwestern roots.

After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants. That experience honed his belief in the power of uniting ordinary people around a politics of purpose and in the hard work of citizenship to bring about positive change. In law school, he became the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. He then returned to Illinois to teach constitutional law at University of Chicago and begin a career in public service, winning seats in the Illinois Senate and United States Senate.

On November 4, 2008, Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States, winning more votes than any candidate in history. He took office at a moment of crisis unlike any America had seen in decades—a nation at war, a planet in peril, the American Dream itself threatened by the worst economic calamity since the Great Depression. Despite all manner of political obstruction, Obama’s leadership helped rescue the economy, revitalize the American auto industry, reform the health care system to cover another 20 million Americans, and put the country on a firm course to a clean energy future—all while overseeing the longest stretch of job creation in American history. On the world stage, Obama’s belief in America’s indispensable leadership and strong, principled diplomacy helped wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, decimate al-Qaeda and eliminate the world’s most wanted terrorists, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program, open a new chapter with the people of Cuba, and unite humanity in coordinated action to combat a changing climate.

In times of great challenge and change, President Obama’s leadership ushered in a stronger economy, a more equal society, and a nation more secure at home and more respected around the world. The Obama years were ones in which more people not only began to see themselves in the changing face of America, but to see America the way he always has—as the only place on Earth where so many of our stories could even be possible.

Obama and his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia and Sasha.

As secretary of the Smithsonian, Bunch oversees 19 museums, 21 libraries, the National Zoo, numerous research centers, and several education units and centers. Bunch was the founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. He is the first historian appointed to the role.

Registration for the conference is open. Media interested in registering for the session may contact Macey Morales, deputy director of ALA’s Communications and Marketing Office, at

Annual Conference and Exhibition attendees will have access to more than 200 educational sessions in the areas of library services; equity, diversity, and inclusion; leadership; teaching and learning; technology; the library workplace; and more. Additionally, the News You Can Use series, interactive Discussion Groups, and President and Chair Programs provide an excellent opportunity for attendees to share thoughts among peers.

The conference launches Wednesday, June 23, with a full day dedicated to The Library Marketplace, showcasing as many as 300 exhibitors offering innovative resources for libraries, 11 presentation stages that will highlight notable and genre-specific keynotes, publisher-led spotlight sessions on new book titles, networking opportunities, giveaways, and more.

Get updates from the 2021 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition Virtual website and follow the hashtag #alaac21 and ALA on social media: InstagramTwitter, and Facebook.


Graphic reading "Annual Conference Preview"

2021 Annual Conference Preview

ALA members gather online for a week of learning, networking June 23–29

Sen. Barack Obama speaks at the 2005 ALA Annual Conference and Exhibition

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