Students lined up for a falafel dinner and U of C lecturer Clayton Harris’s speech on race, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and what makes a successful civil servant at the second annual Chicago Politics Lecture organized by the U of C Democrats Tuesday evening.
In 1999, Harris served as the Cook County’s Assistant State Attorney followed by a two-year stint as Mayor Richard M. Daley’s assistant. He then worked in various positions in Illinois government and became a lecturer at the University in 2003.
Harris discussed Emanuel’s fear-inspiring reputation, but also commended him for staying above the melee of ward redistricting when it comes to debates between Chicago’s Black and Latino populations.
Emanuel moved the public conversation to how to avoid corruption, Harris noted, and the former city hall insider said he wanted to believe that 70 percent of his elected officials were true to their constituents.
Still, Harris admitted that, “There simply aren’t many checks and balances in Chicago,” citing thirty-one Chicago aldermen jailed since 1972.
Harris concluded the lecture explaining how President Barack Obama managed to escape his time in Illinois politics without a scandal, and is brought back to his family life by his wife.
“He didn’t have enough time to get into trouble, but the truth of it is that he’s grounded, and he’s grounded because his wife is very grounded,” he said.
Harris elaborated on his point about Obama with a story from the former Illinois Senator’s past.
Supposedly, Harris said, when Senator Obama went home to his wife and tried to tell her about an a rousing speech he made. When he began to, she stopped him and told him to go and kiss his daughters. After he had kissed them, he tried again to tell her, but she asked him to take out the garbage. He did, but then she reminded him to ask how her day was. Finally, she said, “Now, tell me what’s going on with you. Remember, you have—first—a family and a wife.”
According to Harris, Obama’s secret to success is Michelle. “He has a woman who is a lot stronger than he is, and not in a bad way,” Harris said.