|Frank and Bea Lumpkin|
Sadly, when Washington died in office, the Democratic Party hacks crept back into power. The movement around Harold had not had time to jell into an organization with staying power. Still, the lessons of that campaign, with its spirit of African American, Latino and labor unity, took deep root in Chicago. Those roots nourished the spectacular rise of a new voice for people’s unity, Barack Obama. Since then, Obama’s strong voice has brought the message of unity to every corner of the country.
I am sure that Frank and I met Obama in the ’80s. That’s when he was working on pollution problems at the Altgeld Gardens public housing. The site was close to the steel mills, and Frank was active on similar pollution issues. We certainly knew the community people with whom Obama was working. But I cannot say that we knew the Obama name then. There were two reasons for that. Both Frank and I have a hard time remembering names. More important, was Obama’s style. He pushed the community people forward and stayed out of the limelight himself. After Obama became our state senator in 1996, we knew his name, and I am sure he knew ours.
We were also friends with Alice Palmer, a progressive state senator. When she ran for Congress, Barack Obama won the vacated state senatorial seat.
During Obama’s years in the Illinois Senate, we heard many good things about him. I helped organize steel worker retirees to visit Obama about health care legislation. He made us happy by telling us he was a sponsor of the legislation we wanted. And we liked his stand against a U.S. invasion of Iraq. He told us he was thinking of running for the US Senate.
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