Obama in Illinois Interviews
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Obama in Illinois Interviews
For two and a half decades, from 1989 to 2012, David Blanchette served as the Public Information Officer for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency and later the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. He was with IHPA during its infancy, and during the conceptualization, design, construction and opening of ALPLM, a world-class museum and library. U.S. Senator and later President Barack Obama was at the ALPLM for the Museum's opening, as well as the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth.
Larry Bomke served Sangamon County and central Illinois in a political career that began in the early 1970s and ended with his retirement from the Illinois Senate in 2013. He began his career as a Republican at the grass roots level, and in 1976 was elected to serve on the Sangamon County Board. In 1992 he became the Chairman of the County Board, and in 1995 he was appointed by the Sangamon County Republican Party to fill an Illinois Senate seat vacated by Karen Hasara, who was running for mayor of Springfield. He served in the Senate for the next 18 years, during a time that coincided with Barack Obama's years in the IL Senate.
John Borling graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1963, and completed flight training as a fighter pilot in 1964. By 1965 he was flying combat missions in an F-4 Phantom over North Vietnam, and on his 97th mission was shot down in June, 1966. Borling spent the next six and a half years as a POW. After his release, he had a long and distinguished career, including serving as a White House Fellow in the Gerald Ford administration, command of the famed 'Hat in the Ring' Squadron, several higher level commands, and tours at the Pentagon, in Germany, Belgium, the Strategic Air Command and his final assignment in Norway as the Chief of Staff of Allied Forces-North. In 2004, Borling was a candidate for a U.S. Senate seat in Illinois, which was eventually won by Barack Obama.
Barbara Flynn Currie, a liberal Democrat from the Hyde Park district of Chicago, has represented that area in the Illinois House of Representatives from January, 1979 to her retirement at the end of the 2018 legislative year. Since 1997 she has served as the House Majority Leader during an era where Mike Madigan served as Speaker of the House. Currie also had professional dealings with Barack Obama, who was the state senator for her legislative district.
Jim Edgar served as the Governor of Illinois from 1991 to 1999, with his tenure overlapping a portion of Barack Obama's time as an Illinois State Senator. Edgar discusses his impressions of Obama and his decision to not run in the 2004 U.S. Senate race that Obama eventually won.
Jim Frazier lived an eventful life as a restaurateur and long-time employee of Safety Kleen, with an active family of five children. His oldest, Jake Frazier, joined the Illinois Air National Guard in 1998, and was assigned to the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron. In late March 2003 Jake was killed while on patrol in Afghanistan. Following Jake's death, Jim began working for Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn and met then-state senator Barack Obama, later appearing at events for the latter's 2008 presidential campaign.
Beverly Helm-Renfro grew up in Springfield, Illinois, the daughter of a prominent African-American who served for decades as the Secretary of State's photographer, where he took photos of the leading politicians of Illinois and a steady stream of notable Americans visiting the state capital. Beverly worked as an administrative assistant to two Illinois state senators, for Fred Smith from 1973 to 1978, and many years later for Barack Obama from 2001 to 2004, when he served in the Illinois State Senate.
Dennis (Denny) Jacobs, started his political career as the long-time Democratic mayor of East Moline, Illinois, helping the city cope with the loss of several of its major employers during the early 1980s. In 1986 he moved to the Illinois Senate, and served there until 2004 when he handed over his seat to his son, Michael. While in the Illinois Senate, Jacobs became close friends with State Senator Barack Obama, and was one of several state senators who regularly played poker with the future president. He stayed in touch with the President throughout Obama's political career.
Tom Lamont had a multifaceted career in a law, government administration, politics and the Illinois National Guard from the 1970s through the mid 2000s. In the 1990s he served on the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. In 2009 he became the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, taking on wide-ranging duties where he dealt with some of the most momentous and controversial issues of the President Obama administration, all while the nation fought two wars. Issues he dealt with included repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' the integration of women into combat positions, and recruiting and retention challenges, complicated by the era's serious budget constraints.
Ann Lousin earned a law degree from the University of Chicago in 1968, and the following year worked as a research assistant for Illinois's Constitutional Convention, a subject that has fascinated her ever since. She has written extensively on the subject, and is regarded as the premier authority on ConCon. In 1970 Lousin was selected to serve first as a staff assistant and later as the parliamentarian in the Illinois House of Representations at a time when W. Robert Blair (Republican) was the Speaker of the House. In 1975, she began a long and distinguished career as professor at the John Marshall Law School. Governor Jim Thompson selected Lousin to chair the Civil Service Commission, a position she held until 1983.
Senator Dave Luechtefeld grew up on a dairy farm outside Okawville, Illinois, and because of his 6 ft 7 in frame and basketball skills he earned a full sports scholarship to St. Louis University. He returned to Okawville to begin a very successful teaching and coaching career, especially in basketball, with multiple trips to the state finals. Following his retirement at 57, he then became an Illinois State Senator in 1995, serving as a Republican in a toss-up district for twenty-one years until his retirement from the senate in 2016. While an Illinois Senator, the Republican Luechtefeld often played poker with his Democratic colleague, Senator Obama.
Abner Mikva grew up on the south side of Chicago, and began his political career following a one-year clerkship with the U.S. Supreme Court. Mikva served in the Illinois legislature from 1956 to 1966 representing the Hyde Park neighborhood of the city, and the U.S. House of Representatives from 1969 to January 1973. He was maneuvered out of office due to redistricting, then represented the Evanston area in Congress from 1975 to 1979, when he was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In 1994 he began a one-year hitch as President Bill Clinton's legal advisor. He then returned to Chicago, taught law, and became one of Barack Obama's mentors and early supporters in the late 1990s.
Newton Minow rose to fame as John F. Kennedy's Federal Communications Commission chairman when he used the phrase "vast wasteland" to describe the relatively new medium of television. He returned to Chicago in 1965, joined the law firm of Sidley Austin, and stayed active in Democratic politics for the rest of a long and productive career. Other alum of Sidley Austin included Michelle (Robinson) Obama and Barack Obama, who worked there as an intern. Minow formed a friendship and a mentoring relationship with the young lawyer, and Barack often sought him out for advice at important points in his life.
Taylor Pensoneau covered the Illinois Statehouse beat for the St. Louis Post Dispatch from Oct. 1965 through Jan. 1978, reporting on the Richard Ogilvie, Dan Walker, and Jim Thompson gubernatorial administrations. Following this, he worked for several years as a lobbyist at the Illinois Coal Association, and while there began a third career, writing books on Illinois' political and criminal history.
James 'Pate' Philip served in the Illinois House of Representatives from 1966 to 1974, and in the Illinois Senate from 1975 to 2002. Senator Philip hailed from the Republican stronghold of DuPage County, and for most of his years in the Senate (1981-2002) he served as the leader of the Republican caucus, and after 1993 as the Senate President. Philip developed a reputation for being a 'straight-talking Marine' who often was criticized for off-color comments. Philip was a traditional conservative on fiscal issues as well as on the Equal Rights Amendment, gun control, crime and the death penalty. His comments on fellow state senator Barack Obama are brief, reflecting the relatively low profile Obama had in the Illinois Senate during his time as a member. Also present during the interview was Carter Hendren, Senator Philip's chief of staff during his long tenure in the Senate.
Bernie Schoenburg, a graduate of the University of Illinois, began his career in journalism with the Bloomington Pantagraph from 1976 to 1986. After working three years as a supervisor in the Chicago office of the Associated Press, he moved to the state capital and joined the staff at Springfield State Journal-Register (S-JR). A highly respected journalist, he works as the S-JR's statehouse reporter and columnist, writing bi-weekly political columns. Schoenburg also shares his perspective of state Senator Barack Obama during his time in the state Senate from 1997 through 2004.”
Bernie Sieracki spent a lifetime as a lobbyist, working in the Illinois state legislature for a variety of clients, including the Illinois Petroleum Council and later on, Waste Management before starting his own lobbying firm, Business Government Relations. Sieracki talks extensively about lobbying, and about the political culture in Springfield during his roughly forty years as a lobbyist. Following the impeachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2009, he was perfectly suited to write the definitive book on the impeachment process, entitled "A Just Cause: The Impeachment and Removal of Governor Rod Blagojevich. Sieracki shares his unique perspective of state Senator Barack Obama from lobbyist’s perspective.
James R. Thompson, known to Illinoisans as Big Jim, served as the state's governor from January, 1977 to January, 1991, a total of fourteen years. During his long tenure as governor, Thompson developed a reputation as a moderate Republican who was a fiscal conservative, but also a friend of labor and a builder. He also enjoys the reputation as one of Illinois’s most skilled campaigners and politician. Following his many years in office, he worked in the private sector, serving as the chair of the important Chicago law firm, Winston and Strawn for many years. As Illinois’s leading senior stateman, he reflected on Barack Obama surprising emergence to national prominence, first as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, then during run for president and his presidency.
Senator Frank Watson (Republican) served as the Minority Leader in the Illinois State Senate during some of the state's most politically volatile years, coinciding with Rod Blagojevich's years as governor. Watson, from the southern Illinois town of Greenville, was a vocal and powerful advocate on educational issues, and voted as a fiscal hawk and social conservative throughout his career, which began in the IL House in 1978. He suffered a stroke in October, 2008, and finished his time in the Senate during the Blagojevich impeachment trial in January, 2009. Watson also shares his memories of Barack Obama when he was in the Illinois State Senate.