Notable figures visit Hyde Park in 2017

University of Chicago students Asya Akca (far left) and Oluwaseyi “Shea” Omonijo (far right) applaud as the bust of Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson, the first black woman to receive a Ph.D. from a U.S. university, is unveiled in Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th St., Tuesday, Nov. 28. – Marc Monaghan

Staff Writer

The University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics hosted many high profile figures in politics in the last year.

In January, just weeks before President Donald Trump’s inauguration his then press secretary, Sean Spicer sat down with IOP director, David Axelrod and former White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs. Spicer resigned from his post in June. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is his successor.

The event was a part of a speaker series “America in the Trump Era,” the IOP’s look at the changes – cultural, policy, media and otherwise – coming under a Trump administration.

Before the conversation began between Spicer, Axelrod, and Gibbs, an unknown male from the audience interjected. Executive Director of the IOP Steve Edwards asked the man to be respectful and wait until the question and answer portion to voice his opinion.

The man yelled, “You are a press secretary for Trump…who denies facts. There is an option people…which is to stand up and resist. This is conciliating and accommodating with fascism,” he said. “That’s what it means when you have a president that celebrates sexual rape. There’s another option…to organize. Trump has his hands on the nuclear trigger there’s no checks and balances on that.”

Ultimately, U. of C. staff members escorted the man from the event. Neither of the men on the panel responded to the man’s claims during his outburst.

Spicer said the magnitude of the win for the Trump campaign was enormous.

“You saw 200 hundred counties that Obama carried flip,” Spicer said.

Trump’s use of Twitter was also a topic of discussion. Gibbs asked Spicer if he knew beforehand what Trump was going to tweet before he posts it to the site.

“I do not,” Spicer said.

“You don’t get them ahead of time,” Gibbs said.

“Nope,” Spicer said.

Spicer said that once in awhile Trump will say I am going to tweet this, but “[Trump] drives the train on this. He can drive a message and influence people in a way that hasn’t [been] done before.”

Spicer said that Trump will keep tweeting as President and that he has been extremely successful in getting his message across to the masses.

“If you look at what he’s done in terms of whether it’s Carrier, GM, the motion yesterday in Congress…if you actually sit back and objectively look at it he’s been extremely successful at his use of Twitter and getting a result achieved.”

Some are concerned at the frequency to which, Trump tweets and claim that he often tweets inaccurate information. For the last few months and even to date, Trump’s Twitter account drives the news for mainstream media outlets.

Also, within the same week, the IOP hosted John Brennan, former director of the CIA.

Brennan confirmed Russia’s role in the presidential election during the event at the IOP.

“Russia did interfere in the recent presidential election, and we have good understanding of what it is that they did,” Brennan said. “As an intelligence community, it’s our responsibility to understand all the different types of threats to our national security that includes terrorism proliferation, but also a threat to one of the foundational tenants of our democracy free, fair and open election.”

President Barack Obama appointed Brennan Director in 2013, following three decades of service at the CIA. Brennan provided insight and analysis on the nature of threats and the role of U.S. intelligence in world affairs in a conversation with U. of C. political science professor Robert Pape.

A joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report recently linked Russian intelligence services to the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

President Barack Obama gives an emotional farewell address to the nation from Chicago – just days before the inauguration of President Donald Trump, former President Barack Obama delivered an emotional farewell address to the nation from the McCormick Place.

On Saturday, Jan. 7, people began lining up before sunrise and braved the cold for hours in single-digit temperatures to try to get a free ticket to Tuesday’s farewell address.

About 18,000 people filled McCormick Place on to hear from the President, who landed at O’Hare International Airport just after 5 p.m.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Malia Obama, along with Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, joined the President in Chicago. Sasha Obama did not attend the event because she had to be at school Wednesday morning for an exam, according to the White House.

Before heading to McCormick Place, the President sat down for a one-on-one interview with NBC Nightly News Anchor, Lester Holt, at Valois Restaurant, 1518 E. 53rd St.

Valois Restaurant offered free breakfast for customers from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., and then closed the restaurant for the remainder of the day.

Passerby’s waited outside of Valois in the hopes of seeing the President and his motorcade come down 53rd Street.

Obama gave what many viewed as an emotional and heartfelt speech to the nation. He expressed gratitude and optimism about the future of American democracy and the country.

Obama also called on the next generation to let their voices lead the changes that they wish to see.

“If something needs fixing, lace up your shoes and do some organizing,” Obama said. “If you’re disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself. Show up. Dive in. Persevere. Sometimes you’ll win. Sometimes you’ll lose.”

The President gave a heartfelt thank you, to his wife Michelle and his two daughters Malia and Sasha.

As he spoke to his wife Michelle, Malia who was sitting right next to her, started to cry.

“You took on a role you didn’t ask for and made it your own with grace and grit and style and good humor,” Obama said. “You made the White House a place that belongs to everybody. And a new generation sets its sights higher because it has you as a role model. You’ve made me proud. You’ve made the country proud.” Obama also thanked Biden and his wife Jill for their service.

Toward the end of his speech, Obama said he remains hopeful for the future of the nation.

“This generation coming up – unselfish, altruistic, creative, patriotic – I’ve seen you in every corner of the country,” Obama said. “You believe in a fair, just, inclusive America; you know that constant change has been America’s hallmark, something not to fear but to embrace, and you are willing to carry this hard work of democracy forward. You’ll soon outnumber any of us, and I believe as a result that the future is in good hands.”

After departing from the White House in January, Obama made his first visit to Chicago in February.

Obama met with leaders to discuss the future Obama Presidential Center, which will be housed in Jackson Park according to an Obama Foundation representative.

Obama was joined by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Dr. Bryon T. Brazier pastor of Apostolic Church of God 6230 S. Dorchester Ave., Dr. Leon Finney pastor of the Metropolitan Apostolic Community Church 4610 S. Prairie Ave., Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th), South Shore Chamber, and the Chicago Urban League.

Michael Eric Dyson visits KAMII to discuss new book – Author, academic, professor, and radio host, Michael Eric Dyson met with Natalie Moore journalist and author from WBEZ 91.5 FM to have a conversation about his new book, “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America.”

The pair spoke in depth to a large crowd about his book, violence in Chicago and President Donald Trump’s response to the violence in Chicago on Wednesday night, Jan. 26, at KAM Isaiah Israel, 1100 E. Hyde Park Blvd.

Dyson said “Tears We Cannot Stop” grew out of an op-ed piece that he wrote for the New York Times last year titled, “Death in Black and White” following the killings of Philando Castile in St. Paul Minn., and Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., who were both killed by police officers.

The format and tone of the book are that of a sermon where Dyson calls for change. He argues that to make racial progress possible that there is need to confront what he refers to as painful truths and to be honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed or discounted.

Dyson said what is happening in regards to gun violence, and shootings are heinous, but he argued that more attention is shifted to what some refer to as “black-on-black crime” instead of white people who, according to Dyson are more likely to be killed by other white people.

“84 percent of white people who are killed are killed by white people,” Dyson said. “There is no discourse about what is happening to White America. We don’t visualize it. We don’t verbalize it.”

There were 765 homicides last year, according to the Chicago Police Department 300 more murders than in 2015.

Gun violence in Chicago has been in the spotlight for much of last year. According to the CPD, there have been 42 murders so far this year as of Thursday, Jan. 26.

President Donald Trump even voiced his opinion on the matter. Threatening in a tweet to “send the Feds” unless Chicago officials “fix the horrible ‘carnage’ in the city.”

Dyson addressed Trump’s threat. He said federal intervention would cause more harm than good in the city.

He said that federal government presence could “criminalize the people who aren’t criminals” and lock up people who are not “even the most egregious of offenders of the law” leading to an expansion of the “prison industrial complex.”

Dyson also mentioned the scathing 100-plus-page report from the Department of Justice released this year that revealed the troubled past and present of the CPD.

He said the report shows to the extent that city officials were complicit in what was going in the police department.

Obama gives first public address since leaving the White House at U. of C. – In April, Obama met with young leaders at the Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., in his first public speaking appearance since leaving office in January.

Obama engaged in a lively discussion on the importance of civic engagement and community organizing. He was joined on stage with Chicago area youth leaders, Dr. Tiffany Brown, Ramuel Figueroa, Max M. Freedman, Kelsey McClear, Harish Patel, and Ayanna Watkins.

Brown is a graduate of Chicago State University and Kenwood Academy High School; Figueroa- Undergraduate at Roosevelt University; Freedman is a student at the University of Chicago (U. of C.).

McClear is a student at Loyola University Chicago; Patel is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Watkins is a senior at Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.

Obama said since leaving office one of his missions is to prepare the next generation to lead. He said he hopes to create pathways for young people to become leaders and to “knock down some of the barriers that are discouraging young people” from a life of service.

The core of the discussion centered on ways to engage with and involve the next generation of American leaders who Obama believes will have the drive, instinct, and ability to solve our most significant challenges.

Watkins, the youngest member of the panel, said she was contacted last week about joining Obama for the discussion.

“The experience was great he [Obama] came in and talked with us,” Watkins said referring to his visit to the group of youth panelist before the public discussion.

She said he made her feel comfortable before coming on stage.

“He’s willing to listen to the youth in Chicago,” Watkins said. “He’s willing to hear what we have to say as far as change for our younger generation. I hope he uses what we have to say and we can move forward.”

In addition to the youth panelists there were about 460 guests in the audience that included students from Harold Washington College, Malcolm X College, Kennedy-King College, Columbia College, University of Chicago, Chicago State University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Roosevelt University, Illinois Tech Institute, Northwestern University, DePaul University, and Loyola University Chicago (Arrupe College).

U.S. Rep. John Lewis speaks at Rockefeller Chapel – In May, U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D) of the 5th Congressional District of Georgia met with over 600 elementary and high school students at Rockefeller Chapel, to discuss his graphic novel series, “March,” which is also co-authored by Andrew Aydin.

The pair also expressed ways in which young people can become agents of change.

The first volume, “March: Book One,” was published in August 2013, the second volume, “March: Book Two” was published in 2015 and the third, “March: Book Three” was published in 2016.

The series is modeled after the comic book “Martin Luther King and The Montgomery Story,” which was published in 1957-58 by the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

Aydin is an Atlanta, Ga., native and currently serves as Digital Director and Policy Advisor to Lewis in Washington and is an avid comic book reader.

He proposed the idea to adapt Lewis’ experience through the Civil Rights Movement into a graphic novel series to communicate with young people.

Aydin said the stories he heard most as a child about the Civil Rights Movement were centered on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

No one, he said, had told the story of John Lewis’s role in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other young people involved in the movement.

“We realized that comics are the language of the future,” Aydin said. “You all have grown up on the Internet. You speak in words and pictures. If we are going to teach you everything that we need to, we have to do it in your language.”

Lewis spoke of his very humble beginnings. He was born in Troy, Ala., to a family of sharecroppers and he said from a young age he was “determined to get off the farm and go to school.”

The congressman said as a kid he wanted to be a preacher so he and his siblings would gather up all the chickens on the farm to sit and listen to him preach.

Growing up in the South Lewis was also exposed to segregation. He referred to the “whites only” signs that were put in place in public venues in his hometown and other cities and states across the South.

He began to question his parents and grandparents about segregation; he said their answer was, “That’s the way it is. Don’t get in the way, don’t get in trouble.”

Lewis was a teenager in the 1950s and watched firsthand as the Montgomery Bus Boycott unfolded and Civil Rights leaders such as Parks and King emerged.

“The action of Rosa Parks the words and leadership of Dr. King inspired me to find a way to get in the way,” Lewis said. “I got in trouble, what I call good trouble. When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to say something, you have to do something.”

Lewis is well known for his role in the Civil Rights Movement. He chaired the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as a student Lewis organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters as well as other actions for the movement. While he and others segregated lunch counters, he said that he was spit on and beaten.

Both Aydin and Lewis told students that they were not too young to be activists. They also encouraged students to use technology such as social media to engage with and organize with people of like interests.

Local influences national visitors highlight Obama Foundation Summit– In October the Obama Foundation held its first summit in the South Loop.

Local influences and national visitors were a highlight of the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit. A major goal of the summit was to gather young people from all over the world and give them the tools they need to make a change in their communities.

Local events, people and places that have and continue to inspire former President Barack Obama were one of many highlights for the two-day summit that began on Tuesday, Oct. 31, and concluded on Wednesday, Nov. 1. Other high points of the summit included a visit from Prince Harry of Wales.

Former First Lady Michelle Obama; Chicago native and Award-winning hip-hop artist Common and Composer, Lyricist, Playwright and Actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is best known for creating and starring in the Broadway musical Hamilton, were some of many heard at the summit.

During the opening session of the summit, Obama said after leaving the White House he considered what he could do that would be most impactful in the next phase of his life.

“Ordinary people in local communities can do extraordinary things when they’re given a chance, when their voices are heard when they come together, and they recognize themselves in each other,” Obama said.

Over 500 rising and established civic leaders from 27 states and 60 countries, including Bangladesh, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Tunisia, and China convened in Chicago at the Marriot Marquis, 2121 S. Prairie Ave., on Tuesday, Oct. 31 and Wednesday, Nov. 1, for Hyde Park-based Obama Foundation’s summit.

Through the summit’s main stage sessions and breakout sessions, participants explored solutions to problems facing communities worldwide, exchanged ideas while taking in civic art, technology, and music from around the world.

Obama said he believes creating a space for young people to make those connections will help them “to thrive and to grow and to scale up all the amazing stuff that they were already doing locally, and not just to root themselves locally, but then be able to germinate and seed change all around the country and around the world, then there’s no problem we couldn’t solve. There’s no aspiration that we might not reach.”

During the main stage and breakout sessions facilitators from various backgrounds highlighted challenges within communities worldwide and “the biggest opportunities for engagement and positive change,” said the foundation in a written statement.

As participants floated between main stage and breakout sessions, they saw and engaged with one another through social spaces that featured works of art from Chicago-based artists and artists from around the world whose work centers on civics.

Also, featured in social spaces was a bookstore operated in partnership with Seminary-Co-Op Bookstore, 5751 S. Woodlawn Ave.

“It is a fantastic opportunity to be a part of the [summit],” said Adam Sonderberg, manager of the Seminary Co-Op.

The Co-Op and its sister store, 57th Street Books hosted readings for both of Obama’s books.

The pop-up bookstore featured 10 books selected by Obama that motivated him in choosing a life of service and challenged his views on the world.

Michelle Obama spoke at length about her sources for inspiration and on what it takes to lead a life of public service in conversation with Elizabeth Alexander, a poet and close friend of Obama.

“Michelle Obama is true north she is a compass; she is steady in the churning sea,” said Alexander as she introduced Obama to an excited and attentive audience.

When asked about words of inspiration Obama said it is the words of her parents that laid the foundation and has guided her throughout her life.

“When I think about the words that stay in my head that guide me…it’s the voice of Marian and Fraser Robinson,” Obama said. “Words don’t have to be poetic they don’t have to be set to music. Most of the words that guide us are those words that we’ve heard growing up.”

The words passed along to Obama, and her brother Craig was to “Do what you say you’re going to do. To be honest and true [and] to treat people with dignity and respect.”

On how people should use their voice to express disagreement, she said, “The question of how you use your voice comes after you find your voice.” For those who are seeking to find their voice, Obama said that it doesn’t happen overnight.
Most important though, Obama said is recognizing the power of your voice and using it in the right manner.

“When you have a voice you just can’t use it any kind of way,” Obama said. “You don’t just say what’s on your mind. You don’t tweet every thought.”

Obama also encouraged the room.

“Hope is right in this room,” Obama said. “Your voices, missions, goals the possibilities that you all have to be leaders in the world that gives me hope.”

Common and Miranda spoke about art and how it informs them as activists during the closing main stage session of the summit.

“It [hip-hop] had that impact on so many people in our lives and culture,” Common said. “It was eye-opening for me to see people from different walks of life brought together to tell a story about a person prevailing through life and overcoming situations.”

During the conversation, the pair broke out into a spontaneous freestyle rap session.

“You can use any source of fuel to power your craft,” Miranda said. “Rage is a fuel source. Joy is a fuel source. Anger is a fuel source. Love is a fuel source.”

Barack Obama closed out the summit with final parting words; he said, “You are right there ready and able to transform the world.”

Before the start of the summit, Prince Harry, and Michelle Obama met with 20 students at Hyde Park Academy High School, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave., which is situated directly across from the future site for the OPC.

The summit ended with a celebration at the Wintrust Arena, 200 E. Cermak Rd., with appearances by Chance the Rapper, Aziz Ansari and Lena Waithe, Gloria Estefan, Andra Day, Nas, Brandi Carlile, The National, Francis & the Lights.

Donna Brazile visits U. of C.’s IOP – In November, Donna Brazile, veteran Democratic political strategist and former interim chair of the Democratic National Committee spoke about her new book, the 2016 presidential election, and the future of the Democratic Party.

“Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House” was officially released Tuesday, Nov. 7, one day before the one-year anniversary of the 2016 election. It provides a detailed account from Brazile’s point of view on the 2016 Presidential election.

“I wrote this book because we were hacked in 2016 the nation was hacked,” Brazile said. “The hacking that took place was [done] to cause disruption in our democracy, to discredit Hillary Clinton and her campaign, and to destroy the Democratic National Committee.”

A joint FBI and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report that was released early this year linked Russian intelligence services to the hacking of the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta.

Fred Hochberg, former chairman and president of the U.S. Export-Import Bank led the discussion with Brazile that was held in Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St., Hochberg is a resident fellow at the IOP this quarter.

Brazile was the first African-American to manage a presidential campaign.

In 2000, she served as campaign manager for Al Gore and has worked on every presidential campaign from 1976 through 2000.

She is an author, adjunct professor, syndicated columnist, and television commentator as well as a sought-after public speaker. Brazile has lectured at 125 universities across the country over the span of her career.

An excerpt from her new book was released publicly at the beginning of this month, and it caused quite the controversy amongst Democrats some who questioned the timing of the release of the book and Brazile’s loyalty to the national party because she shines a light on the issues within the DNC in the book.

“Wounds don’t heal if you just cover over them you have to expose them,” Brazile said. “You have to let people see what it looks like; you have to clean those wounds. Our democracy was wounded our candidates were wounded. I want everyone to understand what we should do to address those wounds so we can heal properly.”
She added that the best time to debate the previous election cycle is one year later, while it’s still fresh.

Brazile also spoke about the future of the party and on what the next generation of young people can do to get involved in the DNC.

“You have to be ready to lead there are many ways to lead; you don’t just have to run for office,” Brazile said to a U. of C. student during the question and answer segment of the event. Lead from where you are start from where you are.”