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Obama hails Daley as unifying force for Chicago

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama breezed through their hometown for three hours Wednesday, taping a farewell episode of The Oprah Winfrey show and giving an emotional send-off to Mayor Daley.

“This is going to be the last time I am in town while Mayor Daley is still mayor,” Obama said backstage at Winfrey’s Harpo Studios on the Near West Side.

He handed Daley a framed print of the first official survey of Chicago in 1834 from the National Archives. It showed Ft. Dearborn.

“You have done an extraordinary job and this city has been transformed because of your leadership — not only the museum park and changes along the lakefront, but also bringing this city together in a way that I think a lot of people didn’t imagine could be done,” Obama said. “I couldn’t be prouder of you.”

Daley’s son Patrick and his daughters Nora Conroy and Elizabeth “Lally” stood near him. His brother Bill, Obama’s chief of staff, stood off in the background.

“Thanks for training Bill properly — he’s doing a good job,” Obama quipped to Daley.

Obama’s last chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, takes over as mayor May 16.

“Make sure if Rahm starts messing up, you give him some tips,” Obama said.

Daley met Obama at O’Hare Airport and joined him for a chopper ride downtown.

“On the helicopter ride over here, he was still generating about 30 ideas for everything from how to get rid of rats to how to start beehives to making sure that we have bikes for every kid in the schools, so I’m skeptical he’s going to be taking a lot of time off,’’ Obama said. “I know he’s going to be spending some time with Maggie and the family.”

Daley sat in the front row as Winfrey joked with the Obamas about their latest effort to kill the never-substantiated rumor that he was born abroad.

He said he thought after he released his a copy of his birth certificate 2 1/2 years ago, the issue would go away. But the so-called “birthers” argued the copy was a forgery and demanded he release his “long-form” birth certificate.

Obama finally did that Wednesday after possible Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump tried to make an issue of it.

“When it first came up were you thinking, ‘I hope I was born here’?” Winfrey asked the president.

“Can I just say? I was there, so I knew ... that ... I knew I had been born. I remembered it,” Obama said as audience members laughed.

“Of course you did,” Winfrey said.

Though he thought the standard form he released in 2008 should suffice, “I said to my team, look, even though this is not usually what the State of Hawaii does; even though the Republican Governor of Hawaii, the Democratic Governors of Hawaii, all the various officials had confirmed that I was born here, let’s ask them for a special dispensation where they will go ahead and provide us with the original to see if we can put this to rest,” he told Oprah.

The president, looking a bit grayer than the last time he and his wife were on Oprah when he was just a candidate, wore a Navy blue suit as he sat in the middle of Winfrey’s white couch. Just off his right arm, the first lady sat, wearing a multi-color dress.

The rest of the Obamas’ interview with Winfrey remains under wraps until the show airs Monday.

As the president left Harpo Studios, he put his thumb up and said, “Go Bulls!”



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