Scott Turow’s Lifetime Achievement Award

This past October 5th the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame (CLHOF) held one of its biggest events when it presented novelist/lawyer Scott Turow with the Henry Black Fuller award for Lifetime Achievement.  Held in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library, it drew a large and star-studed audience, including Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and seven luminaries who took the stage to make “the case for Scott Turow.” I was privileged to emcee the beginning and end of the show, and especially delighted to bring my eldest son, Rick, up on stage to present the actual award statue to Scott, whom we have both know for many years.  Below is a 48-minute VIDEO I edited down from the full 96-minute video you can watch on the Hall of Fame’s website or HERE on YouTube.

You would be pressed to find a more articulate set of presenters anywhere, and Scott Turow’s acceptance speech was the most articulate of all—which was no surprise to anyone.  I had to exercise some editorial privilege to include all of my opening remarks, which sought to lay out the whole vision of the CLHOF, all of Christie Heffner’s talk, all of Rick’s presentation comments, and, of course, all of Scott’s speech, which I have watched many times, and will continue to revisit.

The other presentations I edited, but only for the sake of time. I first introduced one of Chicago’s legendary power couples, Donna LaPietra and husband Bill Kurtis. She produced Siskel & Ebert at the Movies, as well as what many believe is one of the greatest newscasts in American History, CBS2 News with Bill Kurtis and Walter Jacobson. She is also an extraordinary civic leader.  I have to return to the word “legendary” to describe Bill Kurtis’ career as a newsman. He continues a vast media presence with the important documentarues turned out by Kurtis Productions, as well as being the voice of NPR’s popular Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.  Jane Hamilton has won many literary awards and twice been an Oprah’s Book Club choice.  Aaron Freeman is a comedian, raconteur, interviewer and an enormous presence on the Chicago cultural scene, perhaps best remembered as the creator of the Star Wars parody “Council Wars,” recounting the Council turmoil following the election of Harold Washington, who appears as Luke Sky Talker.  Christie Heffner—named three times as Fortune‘s Top 100 Most Powerful Women—besides being a CEO contines to crusade for free speech, better government and civil liberties.  Cornelia Grumman won the Pulitzer Prize for her editorials about Illinois’ death penalty. They led to sweeping reform of the state’s prison system. Elizabeth Taylor has chaired five Pulitzer Prize committees and is one of the smartest people I know in the field of literature, Chicago and otherwise.

Which brings us to Scott Turow, who, in many ways needs little introduction. Author of 13 novels, from which three major Hollywood films and one TV series have been made.  Three non-fiction titles, including Ultimate Punishment, his reflections on dealing with the death penalty and being on the commission that led to a moratorium and, finally, abolishment of the practice.  Editor of a couple more volumes, including Guilty As Charged, short stories offering various perspectives on America’s criminal justice system.  Oh, yes, he’s also a famous lawyer.  Lots of pro bono work, including winning the release of a man who spent 11 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.  And there’s that Operation Greylord thing, a wide-ranging investigation and prosecution of judges who did commit crimes. Turow was lead council on that one.

In Ultimate Punishment, Scott surprised Rick Guzman with an acknowledgement, even though Rick, then a recent college grad, was “just” a staffer on the commission which led to the moratorium. Scott also wrote a letter of recommendation for Rick’s application to law school, a letter which, Scott said, would make Rick blush.  “The blood did rush to my head,” said Rick, when I opened a letter of acceptance that also contained a full tuition scholarship.”  As he handed Scott the Fuller Award statue, he said perhaps the most important thing to know about Scott Turow.  “Scott, I am deeply honored and privileged,” he said, “to offer this award to you not only for your extraordinary literary contributions, but also for your extraordinary contribution to humanity, to justice, and for just being one of the great human beings our community has to offer.”

Go to my article about the founding of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, which will soon be updated with links to articles I’ve written about the CLHOF inductees and Fuller Award winners.

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Solving the Puzzle of Home Ownership: The Neighbor Project’s 2023 Gala

If we could solve the puzzle of home ownership, we’d go a long way to solving inequality in America. In the U.S. home ownership is, for most people, the most reliable way to build wealth and stability for their families and neighborhoods. Moving towards home ownership starts with controlling debt and saving.  In The Neighbor Project’s 2022 Annual Report, one graphic shows that its programs helped reduce debt by $839,159 and increased savings by $298,135, thereby adding $1,137,294 to family wealth.  The next step is home ownership.

That puzzle is the theme of The Neighbor Project’s 2023 fundraiser: solving the puzzle of home ownership.  Which led its gala planners to think of one of the great puzzle games of all time: the Rubik’s Cube. Though invented in the mid 70’s, its heyday was in the early 1980’s, so this year’s gala will also include lots of 80’s nostalgia. Lots of fun, and lots of information about how The Neighbor Project solves the puzzle of home ownership, and how you can be part of that puzzle solving.

Come to the gala on October 21st.  Click the banner below to go to The Neighbor Project website and purchase your tickets.

It’s from 6-9 pm at The Venue in Aurora, IL, right across from The Neighbor Project’s offices.

Scroll down the landing page on the website this banner takes you to and watch a video introduction to The Neighbor Project which I was privileged to narrate.

The website you’re on now is loaded with articles about The Neighbor Project, its predecessor Emmanuel House (which merged with the Joseph Corporation in 2018 to form The Neighbor Project), and where it all began for the Guzman family: Bryan House, a living memorial to Bryan Emmanuel Guzman started by Rick and Desiree Guzman in 2007.  Bryan House started by serving five refugee families. The Neighbor Project now serves hundreds of families. 81% of these families are low income, but we hope not for long.

Here are a few key articles on this site that offer more insight into The Neighbor Project’s mission. For example, the first article below explores the relationship of home ownership to our nation’s racial wealth gap.  That wealth gap is enormous and shameful for the U.S. as a whole, and even worse for people of color.

 

The Racial Wealth Gap and Home Ownership.” This article contains many links, including to “Graphic Inequality” (about the U.S. wealth gap in general), and to an article about Lorraine Hansberry, the legendary author of the iconic American play A Raisin in the Sun. It also contains a link to a piece about Bryan Emmanuel Guzman.
Five Years and a National Award.” Earlier this year Rick Guzman, The Neighbor Project’s executive director, was in Washington D.C. to receive the Emerging Leader award for his work at The Neighbor Project.
Emmanuel House in Top 100.” In 2016, shortly before it merged witeh the Joseph Corporation, Emmanuel House was recognized as one of the “Top 100 Most Innovative” social change organizations in the world. Rick once wondered how a small organization could have reached that honor. It was because, he felt, it emphazised everybody’s ability to contribute. See the next link below.
Every Person’s God-Given Ability to Contribute.” There’s no better way to catch a deep sense of The Neighbor Project’s vision than this speech given at the 2020 virtual gala.
Go HERE for an index of almost every article on this site about the history and purpose of, first, Bryan House, then Emmanuel House, then The Neighbor Project.
Another way to increase wealth is to start businesses. The Neighbor Project also contracts with the City of Aurora to run Illinois’ very first Financial Empowerment Center. In addition to free coaching on debt reduction, savings, and safe banking, the Center also offers free coaching on building credit and accessing capital. Learn more by clicking the second item on the Services Section of The Neighbor Project’s website.

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Co-opting the Dream

On August 28, 1963, over 250,000 marched on Washington, D.C., for Jobs and Freedom, a monumental event planned by A. Phillip Randolph, with main organizer Bayard Rustin, and highlighted by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech.  This year on August 26th 75,000 were expected to gather to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March.  One of the speakers this year was Yolanda Renee King.  “If I could speak to my grandfather today, I would say, ‘I’m sorry we still have to be here to rededicate ourselves to finishing your work, and ultimately realizing your hidden dream.’” Indeed, many believe King’s dream has never been in greater jeopardy than today as white supremacists seem more emboldened than ever and regressive policies in education, affirmative action, and voting rights—to name just a few areas—are rising.

A few people who were actually at the 1963 March couldn’t help but notice the downsizing of the crowd, and though it’s difficult to find a final count—most reports saying just “thousands” or “tens of thousands—the numbers are still significant.  Much smaller commemoration events happened across the country, like the one shown in the brief VIDEO below.  On August 27th about 140 people gathered for a commemorative service at Chicago’s United Methodist “Temple,” then processed across the street to Daley Plaza, the giant front yard of Chicago’s City Hall.  We were dwarfed by the Plaza, but I’ve seen many much smaller rallies there.  Anyway, a friend, Tom Butler, who’s on an anti-racism  committee I chair, has said that when it comes to fighting racism we need to think of “remnants,” not huge crowds.  I have said many, many times that Americans would rather talk about anything—anything—but race, and even fewer, only remnants, will be dedicated to fighting it over the long, long haul it will take to make a significant change.  In 2020, just before the Pandemic shut everything down, I spoke at a convocation, saying that IF we worked really hard, maybe in 40 to 100 years we’d see a less racist, more just and equitable United States.  I still stand by that timeframe, though one of the other speakers at that convocation said that while he respected me, he thought I was being way too optimistic.

This co-opting of “Black Lives Matter” is a famous contemporary example of avoiding issues of race. The same thing happened with MLK Jr.’s “I have a dream” and “The content of their character” phrases.

Just one impediment to progress is society’s attempt to dodge real talk and work on race by co-opting major ideas that fight racism and turning them into slogans to actually avert our attention from race. One of the most spectacular and well-known examples is the way “Black Lives Matter” was co-opted and changed to “All Lives Matter.”*  And MLK Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech has also been similarly co-opted.

By now, many people have noted that “I Have A Dream” was easily made into the warm and fuzzy speech of the Civil Rights Movement.  Everyone can relate to having a dream, so it was easy to cuddle up to that phrase and forget that MLK Jr. was trying to tie that phrase specifically to matters of race, not just having any old dream.  But the phrase that perhaps has been co-opted to do the most damage to the fight against racism comes from this sentence in his speech: “”I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  “The content of their character.” The black intellectual Shelby Steel used it as the title to one of his books, a fairly naieve one I think.  It has been co-opted to justify policies that have gone against many of the major programs, like affirmative action, that have fought racism and discrimination in dozens of areas of American life.  It justifies just skipping over color entirely, as if the color of one’s skin didn’t pose an enormous barrier to actually seeing through to any person’s character.  Ironically, more and more whites seem to see the idea of white privilege as something which blinds people to their true character, again as if whiteness doesn’t matter as much as character.  Surely, color shouldn’t matter as much, but it does. It is a roadblock that must be dealt with before we can cuddle up to the idea of character.

* I deal with the damaging effects of saying “All Live Matter” in my sermon “Three Things to Stop Saying.”
More and more many people see King’s “Riverside Sermon” as his most courageous speech. My son Daniel and I set samples of this speech to music, listen HERE. Links in this post will lead to an article on the speech itself.  In it he spoke of the giant triplets of racism, militarism, and economic exploitation.
Go to the Lead Post in the anti-racism workshop Becoming the Beloved Community, and to the Diversity Training and Teaching page on this site.

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