Arthur Berman - Transcript

Transcript of State Senator Arthur Berman.
Interviewee: State Senator Arthur Berman.
Interviewer: Dorothy Nygren and Howard Clauser
Date: April 20, 2012
Place: Chicago, Illinois.
Transcriber: Martin Stewart
Total time: 59:11 minutes

Copyright © 2013 Edgewater Historical Society

DN: Please state your name and place of the interview.

AB: Arthur L Berman and I am speaking in my home in Edgewater.

DN: Thank you. Can you give us a little bit of your personal family history? What were your parents names where they came from? Where they were born?

AB: Yes, I’d be happy to… My father was born in what was then Palestine and is now Israel. And that was in 1903. His name is Morris Berman. And he came over to the United States in 1920 the age of about 17. He went to work, got a job in New York. But being a Jewish immigrant. He got beat up almost every day and after a short time in New York he moved to Chicago. He went to work for a book binding company called Service Bindery Company. They were located at that time I believe, on E. Grand Ave., where just west of where is now a Navy pier. And became very good friends with another employee of Service Bindery Company, a fellow who was an American-born fellow was a very good salesman. My father became really good production person. And one day the owner of Service Bindery Company comes out and announces to all the employees that he’s been in business all his life and he’s getting tired of it and he’s going to retire and sell the business. My father talks to his good friend the other employee and they said, Why don’t we go out and we can borrow some money and make an offer to the boss.”

And that’s what they did. And they bought the business. The other fellow was a salesman person and my father was the production guy and they were very successful at Service Bindery Company. At one time they had over two hundred employees. A great American story of an immigrant who comes over and does very well.

Now, he married, he met and married a beautiful Chicago girl, blonde girl, who was a secretary person. And the two of them got married. They lived at that time when they got married in Lawndale, the old West side… You know, I’ve often told many people who are not familiar with Chicago. I said you don’t live by address in Chicago. You live by Ward. It was the old 24th Ward which was a hub of Jewish immigration.

I was the firstborn between Jean Berman and Morris Berman. And at the age of two they moved out of Lawndale and we moved to West Rogers Park. We moved to an apartment on Claremont and Granville, just west of Edgewater a few blocks. And at the age of about five I started school at Stone Elementary School located at Granville and Leavitt just a few blocks from where our apartment was. From grades kindergarten through fourth I went to Stone then we moved West to Mozart and Granville. In West Rogers Park. I lived in an apartment, the second-floor apartment in a three-story building and I transferred to Clinton Elementary School. Stone and Clinton are still there. I pass by them often. In driving by I love the memories they bring to me. I went to Clinton from fifth grade to eighth grade, graduated and went to Senn High School located in Edgewater. And I drive by there often times. In fact, for many many years, and I would still love to do it, they canceled this year, I’m not sure why. But I go back to Senn High School as principal for a day. And it’s great to talk to these kids and share with them my history which I will share with you and how I moved from Senn High School, moved up in life, to be very satisfied with what I have been able to achieve.

DN: What years were you at Senn?

AB: 19…I would say…I think I was in the class of 1953 graduated there. So, ‘49 to ‘53 would be my four years. I love Senn, became very good friends with a lot of people. In fact within a matter of a week or two ago I had lunch with three other guys, all of whom, all of us, went to Senn High School. So ..ah..

DN: I think Senn was an excellent school at that time with many notable and illustrious graduates.

AB: Oh, yes, a very impressive list of alumni, excluding me. When I graduated from Senn I went to the University of Illinois in Urbana and went into the school of business. I took advanced courses and went to summer school because I wanted to get through school quickly. And I finished in only three years. I was able to finish the program that they had, what they called business in law. I had applied in 1955.

I had the following conversation with my father. We were sitting in our bedroom at Mozart and Granville and I said, “Dad, I have a question for you.” I said, “I finished undergraduate work. I’ve been accepted to law school starting in three months in September at Northwestern University School of Law… let me ask you a question.” I said, “I’ve grown up in the business. You’ve been a very successful owner of a very successful business and I love the business. Why am I going to law school?”

He said, “That’s a good question.” He said, “Let me tell you, I’ve always had the wish that my firstborn,” meaning me “that my firstborn would become an attorney.”

I said, “Okay dad. I can understand that. Let me ask you another question.

“What’s that Artie?”

“I finish law school, and I decide to practice law and not go into business.”

He’s shocked by that question. He thinks and thinks, thinks and he says, “Artie that will be your decision. You want to come into the business or practice law. God bless you.” I said,

“Thank you daddy. I look forward to this, let’s see what happens.”

And then he says, he having lived in the old 24th Ward, “If you’re going to practice law in this town, Chicago, get involved in politics.”

I said, “That’s fine I’ve been active in student groups and community groups and I’d like to do that.”

He says, “Fine.” He walks over, picks up the phone, calls our Democratic precinct captain. He says, “I want to get Artie involved in government, in politics. Tomorrow night? Monday night? Seven o’clock? Okay.” He hangs up the phone and says, “Our precinct captain’s going to pick you up tomorrow night at seven o’clock and bring you into the Ward headquarters, where they will introduce you to the Ward committeeman. He’s the head of the political party and see what happens.”

I said, “Fine.”

Now the next night I get picked up by our precinct captain. He takes me in to see the Ward committeeman of the 50th Ward headquarters, which I think was on Clark Street at that time north of Peterson and it was a very long and narrow office location. So we walked all the way down to the back of the office where the committeeman is sitting at a table, by the desk. The committeeman tells my precinct captain have a seat up in front. “I want to talk to Artie by himself.” So the two of us get into a conversation and I give him some background and he talks about what the precinct captain’s obligations are. How you’re supposed to go door to door in every precinct and get to know everybody and make sure that they are eligible to vote, registered to vote and on Election Day that they vote for the candidates hopefully that you are endorsing. I said, “Sounds fine with me. I’m happy to do that.”

Now the conversation lasted maybe 15, 20 minutes and he says, “I’m not going to make you an assistant in your home precinct a block away - welcome to Chicago - a block away, we have a different precinct and the Irish precinct captain is very old, going to retire and the precinct is turned primarily Jewish.” And he says, “I think you would make a good precinct captain in that Jewish precinct.”

I said, “Sounds okay to me.” And he gives me a book to write down the names of all the voters and everything and I start to walk out of the office and, now, keep in mind, I haven’t started law school yet, I haven’t rung a doorbell, my age was in matter of fact at that time was 20 and I couldn’t even vote yet myself and I’m going to ask other people to vote, as I’m walking out of the office. He says, “Art, do a good job and I’ll make you a judge.”

DN: What a story!

HC: How prophetic!

AB: And I flew out of the office. Welcome to Chicago politics!

DN: So that’s a paradigm you had talking your dad.

AB: So I started law school - did very nicely in law. I was one of the editors of the Northwestern Law School Law Review, got good grades. When I got graduated from law school I went to work in a law office and the law office was a small office on Randolph St., Randolph and Wells. Pass by there periodically now and it always reminds me of my first office and I got a series of offices, but that one was the general practice of law and I really moved towards personal injury work where I represent plaintiffs who were involved in accidents and I loved it because unlike other areas of law practice in personal injury work you represent the plaintiff you don’t get a fee unless you collect money for the client. It was very satisfying to me to be in that kind of practice.

I’ve now been practicing law since 1958. That’s 54 years and still active in the whole slew of bar associations. I am the parliamentarian for the Decalogue Society of Lawyers in Chicago, which is the oldest Jewish lawyers’ organization in the country. And American bar, American trial lawyers, now called the American Association for Justice, Illinois State Bar Association.

But going back to when I started ringing doorbells. This was in 1958, I’m sorry, 1955, that I started ringing doorbells, and I loved it because I became the extra member of perhaps 200 - 300 families that lived within that precinct.

Just a couple of months ago I was in the second floor of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which is very important medical facility. And I’m walking down on the second floor with my wife and that’s the floor with all the people are walking back and forth from different places, a woman walking towards me says, “Art Berman?”

I said, “Yes.”

“You don’t remember me but you are my precinct captain. My daughter had a problem with school and you worked it out. Thank goodness. And I’m glad to see you today.” I said, “Great to see you.”

How much can you put a value on that kind of relationship. I was very proud to be a good precinct captain.

DN: I think especially in this day and age when everyone feels so isolated and alone. This kind of relationship is important.

A B: Yeah….very important. But because of the patronage system, and court cases it’s been eliminated to a great extent. Some parts still operate that way but very few. Anyways, in 1968, there was an opening for an Illinois House of Representatives still being a good precinct captain, I was one of the top three precinct captains in the 50th Ward, there was an opening for a Illinois House of Representatives seat, 1968, I ran for the Illinois House and I was elected and I served there for eight years. In 1975, in those days we had three state reps in one state senator in each legislative district. It involved what we used to call cumulative voting. And we would elect usually two state reps of the majority party in that district and one representative of the minority party and one state senator. We had a state senator in this community in all of the years that I was in the state legislature… I usually included Edgewater was part of it. It went as far south as perhaps Argyle went North included the 48th Ward was Edgewater, 49th Ward was East Rogers Park, part of the 50th Ward, which was West Rogers Park, parts of Evanston, parts of Skokie. For 10 years because of redistricting, I went as far as North as Wilmette. And welcome to the redistricting process.

But in 1975, I was State Senator. I was one of the state reps, one of the Democratic state reps, one from Evanston and one from Chicago. I was the one from Chicago. The state senator, her name was Esther Saperstein, she was a very good State Senator. She was out of the 49th Ward. That was her base. The alderman in the 49th Ward ran into trouble. Got convicted, went to jail. She left the Illinois Senate and moved to take the alderman’s seat in the City Council. So, there was a vacancy in the state Senate. (phone ringing…pause in conversation)

I was one of the Democratic state reps the other state rep was a fellow from Evanston by the name of Joe Lundy. The two of us ran against each other for the Senate seat in the primary election of 1976. It was the most expensive contest in the whole state of Illinois. I spent $75,000 Joe Lundy spent $55,000. Today you can add several zeros to those numbers. But that was big money in those days. I didn’t know if I was a winner or loser until about 3 AM the following morning after the election. I won by about 10 percentage points, 55 to 45.

One of my favorite stories is: several years later my current wife, Barbara and I were walking down the tennis court at the East Bank Club. I looked at the next tennis court. I said, “Honey, come here, I want you to meet somebody.” I walk over and says, “Barbara, this is Joe Lundy, I beat him in the primary election of 76. I made him a rich lawyer.” (laughs) So, I moved to the Senate in 1977. And one of the things that I’m currently impressed with and honored by. This is a book that has been published just a few weeks ago. It’s called Nobody Calls Just to Say Hello. It’s written by a poet, former president of the Illinois Senate, Phil Rock. We served together for many many years in the Illinois Senate. And he refers to Senator Berman in a number of pages in his new book. It’s all good reporting and I’m honored by it. But in the first election, I was sworn in January 1977 to the Illinois Senate.

We went through a very, very unique and lengthy process to elect the Illinois Senate President. The process was….involved 170…let’s see…186 role calls over a period of five weeks before the Democratic majority could put together the 30 votes necessary to elect the president. They elected Tom Hynes, who later became the Cook County Assessor. Tom Hynes became the president of the Illinois Senate in 1977. President Hynes appointed freshman Senator Art Berman, chairman of the Senate Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. I had told him as I told most of my colleagues that I thought education was a very, very important function of government. I still feel that way today and I’m still active.

In fact, as we are speaking today, I drove out this morning, as far out as Lombard, Illinois, a southwestern suburb, of Chicago for a meeting of an advocacy group dealing with education funding. I used to say, regrettably used to say, advocate for my children and now I advocate for my grandchildren. We have to funding adequate funding for quality education for our children. People said to me there are a lot of other areas of the legislature that are much more productive one way or another than education. And I said, Yes,” but every morning I look in the mirror saying “Berman why are you successful?”

And the answer which I give myself every morning – my parents and my teachers. And that’s what I passed on to my children and I’m passing on to my grandchildren. I think it’s very important, and continue to fight for it because we have a long way to go in Illinois.

I served eight years in the Illinois House, I served 23 years in the Illinois Senate. I retired in January of 2000 after 23 years in the Senate. I loved what I did and I like this following statistic. There were 5973 persons who served in the Illinois legislature between 1818 when Illinois became the state and January of 2000 when I retired. So out of those 5973 persons only 31 people served longer than I did. So, I’m very honored at what I was able to do was survive 22 elections in those 31 years.

People say to me “How did you do that?”

I said, “Very simple. All I did was campaign 365 days a year.” I loved it. I am still involved politically. You can’t get it out of your blood. So I call it a narcotic and I’m hooked for life. I was able to accomplish a number of important things. One of them, just have some articles in the newspaper, one of the things that I created, in 1990 was when there was a change in the structure of Chicago public schools giving the mayor the authority to appoint the Chicago School Board. I passed a law that created local school councils. People said, “Well why did you do that?” I said, “because that brought democracy into the Chicago public school system because at that time back in the late 80s early 90s we had about 1200 school districts in the state of Illinois.” There were only two, Chicago being one of them, that didn’t elect their local school board. And Chicago, many are of our individual schools have more children than those schools than do downstate school districts. So in order to give the boys to parents, teachers, principals and community people. I created local school councils to have a voice in setting the policy for each individual school. And the other accomplishment that I’m very proud of and I didn’t realize this until we started to do it.

It took almost two decades of negotiations for me to convince the governor, who was back in 2000, Jim Edgar, to transfer the Broadway Armory located on Broadway and Thorndale, the Broadway Armory was an Illinois National Guard facility for many many many years. They had tanks. They had jeeps. They had soldiers, all kinds of National Guard activity for all these years in this big building that was a couple of blocks square in size and I was able to negotiate the transfer from the Illinois National Guard to the Chicago Park District in 1999. We had a ceremony commemorating the Broadway Armory Park instead of the Broadway Armory. And a couple weeks before the ceremony. I called the park district and said, “Well, I have a unique request. Could you rename the Broadway Armory Park to the Berman Armory Park?”

He said, “We’d love to because you’ve done a great job, but we have a rule.”

“What is the rule?”

“We cannot name a park facility for someone who isn’t dead.”

I said, “I’m not willing to comply with that rule.” So it’s still the Broadway Armory Park and its 24/7 used by our community in Edgewater for all kinds of programs, Park programs, physical programs, educational programs, all ages from small kids, young kids to aging people. It’s a great facility and I’m very proud of it.

DN: And it’s also available for community groups.

AB: Yes. Yes. So when we look back on 31 years in the legislature, 22 elections, all of these accomplishments and I couldn’t…you wouldn’t have the time for me to give you a list of all the legislation that I have sponsored or bad legislation that I defeated. That’s part of the process. But I am honored by the Edgewater Historical Society for this interview and him and I look forward to continuing to work with you.

DN: I’d like to go back a little bit to your Senn High School experience. Could you try to share some of that with us? You were living in West Rogers Park, I believe at the time you went to Senn and would you walk to school or would you take the bus back?

AB: No. Usually, you know my father was living with me, and his office, his business was downtown. So you would be going from Mozart and Granville to Peterson Avenue to Lake Shore Drive and he would pass by Senn High School every day. So he would take me and several of my neighbors who were going to Senn. We would all get into the Berman car early in the morning and he would drop us off at Senn High School. So if it was an occasion when he couldn’t drive us, we would take the bus. But virtually every day he would drive several students and be dropped off at Senn High School.

DN: When you went to Senn High School, what were some of your favorite courses that you took?

AB: We had a woman who was the lead person in the Senn chorus. Her name is Mrs. Keats. She taught me how to sing. She taught me how to appreciate barbershop singing. After I graduated from Senn, and college, I joined a barbershop quartet group and sang with them for several years. And even though my wife would say I don’t know how to sing, I still enjoy singing on occasion. So, that was one of my favorites. I loved virtually every other course that I had. I got good grades, did well with all of them.

I remember a number of my teachers and in fact one of my teachers, and one day… I live in a 39 story condo building, I walk out of my apartment, press the down button on the elevators, the elevator opens I look in there at the back of the elevator is an elderly lady standing there. She was one of my teachers. I said to her, I hadn’t seen her for decades, “Good morning Mrs. Carmel.”

“Good morning. Artie.”

It was like nothing had changed. (laughs)… so that was a great experience. She has passed away now. When I drive by Senn, virtually every day, it’s a great memory for what that school was able to accomplish for me and that’s why I go back as principal for a day every year. To tell the kids how this fellow student got involved in politics, got involved in the law, practiced, and could be successful not only for himself and his family. But for millions of people that live in the state of Illinois.

DN: I think also that the message that needs to be heard in this day and age about being successful not only for yourself but to do more. You can also put your efforts into the community.

AB: That’s why I am really active and on the board of four very important charities. Largest charity from the point of view of delivering human services in Illinois today is the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. I’m on their board. For several years. I was the chairman of the government affairs committee appropriately. I’m on the board of directors of the Anti-Defamation League to fight against discrimination. Just two days ago my wife and I and a neighbor went to see this new movie that I recommend to everyone called Bully which talks about and one of ADL’s ventures at the present time is to counteract bullying in schools and in the community. As I mentioned, I’m on the board of directors, I’m the parliamentarian on the Decalogue Society of lawyers.

I’m on the board of directors of the state of Israel bonds. I was one of the sponsors of legislation to allow Illinois to invest in Israel bonds and it has been over the decades since the bill was passed one of the best investments, especially at the market going down, as it has in recent years, one of the best investments that the State of Illinois has been able to accomplish.

DN: I’d like to go back to your Senn experiences. You were involved extracurricularly in the courts. Now were there any other extracurricular activities you were involved in?

AB: I played basketball for a short time. I wasn’t very good at it but I tried out and was on the team for a short period of time. And it was just something that I enjoyed doing all four years at Senn.

HC: You also just made reference to the movie Bully. And of late bullying has been a big topic. But when I was a kid I remember there was bullying back then. You remember what it was like at Senn. Was there bullying? Were there fights? Those kind of things that seem like they’re new today, but if you think about it, they’re not.

AB: Nothing comes to my mind, but I’m sure that it existed. Back before Senn when I was going to Clinton, many times when I walk by, there is a church near Devon Avenue, I think it’s on Washtenaw Avenue. There would be religious conflicts between group A and group B. The Catholic kids in the non-Catholic kids on the street, almost on a daily basis. I remember those things. I don’t remember much as far as bullying, either in the grammar schools are in my high school. But I’m sure they existed on occasion.

DN: I think one of the aspects about bullying that might be different nowadays than when you were in school might be that when you were in school you are usually identified with group either a religious group or an ethnic group or so on and the bullying that went on was because you were identified as a member of a group. But on the other hand, while you are outside of the group being bullied you are in the side of a group that was protective and supportive of you. So you might have a negative aspect of identity about it by being bullied, but there is an affirmative part, on the other end of it. Supportive. And now bullying is on a personal level, where children, really young children are bullying people just because they don’t like that person on an individual level. It’s not that they’re a member of a religious or ethnic group.

AB: I think that’s true. And I think also it’s been going on forever but now I’m very pleased that we are highlighting this with a…you know… who would’ve ever thought of the movie that would highlight bullying? Who would ever think of a major charity or charities, religious groups, or ethnic groups getting involved in the issue of bullying? But that’s happening today I’m pleased to say.

HC: What was the student population of Senn High School when you were there? Was it a big school? Was it ethnically mixed?

AB: It’s the same size as it is today. Today of course it’s divided between, part of it is the Army, Military Academy, but in my days, that was before the Military Academy, the whole school was filled with kids. I just don’t remember the size. It was a big school. But I don’t remember the number of kids that were there.

DN: In terms of the population was it diverse? Was there a broad representative of religious or racial, populations?

HC: Economic?

AB: Well, I think that the communities had changed. Today, as opposed to when I went to Senn. When I went to Senn, for example, my recollection is that we had a very, very small population of African-Americans. Today it’s a very large percentage of the population. Why? Because the communities have changed. I don’t know what the makeup is but for example, when I was there the Jewish population was much larger than it is today. Again, many of the Jews lived in West Rogers Park, Edgewater, East Rogers Park have moved to number wise by African-Americans suburbs, so the kids are not here to go to Senn. I’m not sure about the Catholic population. But again, I’m sure that it’s overrun number wise by African-Americans and non-Catholics because I think again. Back in my days Catholics and Jews were very prominent in this community.

DN: Did they have clubs at Senn?

AB: Oh yeah we had fraternities and sororities. And I was a member of a boys fraternity.

DN: Could you talk a little bit about that? What do you remember about that?

AB: I don’t recall much. I’m sorry. I should have done better homework on that.

DN: Were there any special places remember going after school?

AB: There was one little store on the east side of Senn High School, on the southeast corner where it was a grocery store, but it really wasn’t much of a grocery store. You could go in and get a ice cream cone, you could get a Coca-Cola, that kind of stuff. So I remember that as a good place to go if you wanted something to snack on or to drink. And when I say something to drink, I don’t mean alcohol. That was one of the few retail shops that were close to Senn. Nothing else was really within walking distance.

DN: So that was around Glenwood and Ridge?

AB: I think it was a block north of Ridge but on Glenwood.

DN: Do you remember going to any of the basketball games or football games?

AB: Oh sure, most of them.

DN: Any little story you’d like to share about that or the proms and dances?

AB: Yes I went to those but I can’t really remember who I even went to the prom with. But it must’ve been a very understanding woman. (laughs)

DN: You said that when you’re at Senn you made several friends that you still have relations with. Was your friendship based on academics or your basketball experience. What was that core that you found together?

AB: We were in class together, became friends together because of our classes. I was more that than any other relationship with them. And what’s nice to look back on his for example this three guys that I had lunch with a couple of weeks ago, all of whom are Senn graduates with me. All three of them are very successful people their ages. They are in their 70s. But they lead wonderful lives and they’ve been very successful entrepreneurs and they are, it was very nice to see that from going back to high school.

DN: You talked about how you felt you had a competitive spirit. Do you feel that that spirit a good place to flourish when you were at Senn? In terms of academics and basketball. Do you feel that that sense of grappling with issues or different things was given full rein? And if so could you talk a little bit about that experience at Senn?

AB: That’s a good question because thinking about that I think you’re right. I think that my experience at Senn, you know you want to get top grades. It’s competitive. You want to do well in any of the programs that they let you participate in, it’s competitive. It’s probably where it started to blossom.

DN: Do you feel that your teachers encouraged that? That the student body in general was competitive and so you were mixed with a bunch of students who gave it all.

AB: I think so. I think teachers had to be. I’ve never been criticized for being competitive. So I think that they encouraged me to do well, and continue to do well.

DN: The reason that I’m asking you that personally is that I went to both University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago. And in looking back on my experience, one of the critical differences was the student body. Not so much the teachers, but the student body itself. Students at the University of Chicago by and large came from a stronger base of knowledge and were much more competitive. And the grades that were given were not for effort, they were for success at the end of the Bell Curve. So for a person who wants to get good grades and existing in that atmosphere, it was a real busy roster.

AB: I think that when you compare University of Chicago with University of Wisconsin I think it’s a good comparison because one of the things that I love about Chicago, one of the reasons I got involved in politics is because of my love for competition. The reason I still play singles tennis is because of my love for competition. It encourages me; it lights me up and I am a lucky guy to be able to do it.

DN: And you see that is being based on your home background, of course but the Senn experience at Senn that you had that was character building?

AB: Oh yes. Very much so.

DN: But what other things about Senn do you think were helpful in forming the person that you are today?

AB: They taught me well and I walked out of there into universities with a good basis of how to start and where to move forward on. Senn did a great job. They were great teachers and great relationships.

DN: In that high school were there any disciplinary situations or problems? Or was each student expected to conform to a certain state of standards and basically they did?

AB: Well, I think basically they did. But I’m sure, and I can’t give you specifics, that kid A acted improperly; kid B acted improperly. They were disciplined one way or another. I don’t recall what that would’ve been. But I’m sure there are kids that fell out of the range of what I have been describing.

DN: The reason I guess that I’m coming around to is both being a student and educator in the Chicago public school system. I see it on both sides and certainly when I went to school. Both from my family and my teacher’s perspective, there were certain standards of behavior that I was expected to conform to. There were expectations for me, and so on and I didn’t feel it was up to the teachers to entertain me. I had to come with a certain basis and expectations that they expected me to conform to. And I see as an educator a shift where the students don’t come to school and the parents don’t necessarily, this is just a personal feeling, but the parents don’t come as full partners in the educational process. And I feel that that is more of a trend in today’s world.

AB: That’s part of what I said when I said when I looked in the mirror every morning and I’d say it’s my parents and teachers that were key to my success. One of the things that I’m very pleased with, when I announced my intended retirement from the Illinois Senate, I made that announcement late 1999. In January of 2000 I was going to retire. My phone rings in my law office, I pick up the phone.

"Art, I worked for you, now you come work for me."

The person on the other end of the phone was Paul Vallas, who at that time was the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. Early in the 90s he was on my Senate education committees staff. Andy asked me to come to work at Chicago Public Schools. I said, “Yes.”

I didn’t go back to full-time practice of law. I went to CPS and became their legislative policy adviser. For the first couple of years, I was also, in addition to legislative policy, I also did labor negotiations with the teachers union and the board and because I had close relationships with both of them for many years, we were able to accomplish a lot in the mediation process. In the arbitration process. We got into disputes between the board and the union. So I served there for six years from 2000 to 2005. Then I retired. Still practice law a little bit. But I left where I started with Chicago public schools. That’s right, one full circle. But it was, again, very important, and that’s what bothers me when I can say that my parents were my guide that today there are so many children whose parents don’t give them the guidance, the strength, the cooperation, the support that they need to be successful.

DN: I think that’s the best recipe of all. Material things are important but support from the schools and parents giving them are needed.

AB: I agree with you. I’m very proud that I have a son and daughter with great spouses. They have great children who are my grandchildren. My son is a successful attorney. My daughter is in a successful public relations business. Their spouses are successful in their enterprises. I have two grandchildren in college already. I have three others that are in Highland Park high school doing very very well. And we just watched the two of them the other night playing volleyball they are on the volleyball team. So I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to pass on to my children and grandchildren and that’s what has to be done today, much more so than ever before. It’s really important.

DN: Howard, is there something you want to ask?

HC: I loved the two stories. The story you told of your music teacher and how you remember that many years later. And I love the story and the woman you met your teacher in the elevator. Are there any other teachers that you remember, either by name or just by memory? Things that you remember – a mark they left on you, something they did in their teaching or in their classes?

AB: I remember their faces. I can’t remember their names. But again, virtually all my teachers were great and… they did a good job with student Berman and set me on the right track.

DN: Did you have a lunchroom at Senn?

AB: Yes.

DN: Because I remember my lunchroom when I went to Bowen. It wasn’t so great. How about the lunches. You remember that?

AB: Yeah, I remember the lunches. It was a big lunchroom and we were there in the afternoon.

(phone rings…pause in interview)

DN: You know, Senator, I think maybe at this point we should stop the interview. I want to say this is not definitive. It’s just the start of something. Because I do want to ask you about a lot of your other experiences. But before we stop this interview because it was a good one. I wanted to ask you a couple of other questions. What do you feel was your most significant personal achievement?

AB: Being a good father and being a good husband.

DN: And what advice would you give to the younger generation?

AB: I would tell them that getting along with other people, education and commitment to do good things, not only for yourself but for others is what will set you on the right path toward successful and rewarding life.