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Question of the day

Thursday, Jan 19, 2017

* Many of us in this business knew Barack Obama from his days in Springfield. So, for those of you who did know him (or still do), what’s your favorite Obama story?

- Posted by Rich Miller        

42 Comments
  1. - VanillaMan - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:10 pm:

    I knew him from Norb Andy’s bumming smokes from me. A distinguished hobo.


  2. - Not It - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:14 pm:

    Joking with him in the elevator on a particularly busy day at the State House about how the large number of tourists in the building make it difficult to get any work done.


  3. - Urban Legend - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:16 pm:

    When Obama was to visit a high school boxing tournament as a State Senator, he seemed unfamiliar with the sport and asked a Leo High School staffer assigned to guide him to the boxing ring where the entry gate was for entering the ring.


  4. - illinoised - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:20 pm:

    The 2006 Governor’s Day celebration during State Fair. A friend introduced me to Senator Obama at the breakfast (might have been Crowne Plaza but not sure). I loved the fact that Obama received all the attention at that event, which I think greatly peeved Governor Blagojevich.


  5. - Wow - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:24 pm:

    Went to dinner with him, the current AG, and 2 other lobbyists. When the bill came both Senators made it a loud point that they didn’t allow lobbyists to buy them dinner.. the next morning the now AG, found me and gave me a personal check for her part of the dinner.. I’m still waiting for the Prez to come up with his share.. (also, he was a double dipper with the shrimp cocktail )!!!!


  6. - the Cardinal - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:25 pm:

    How fast he could work a room, talk to most of the right peeps and hit the exit. Its a skill.


  7. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:27 pm:

    Back in, I think, the summer of 2002, I ran into Obama on the Jackson Park golf course (I am, for the record, a horrible golfer). We chatted a bit, and the woman I was with swooned after we parted.

    “Wow, he’s so handsome. He’s so charismatic. Did I mention how handsome he was?”

    I looked at her like she’d lost her freaking mind. To me, he was just another state legislator who tried to move up the ladder and lost… badly. But she insisted he had a bright future ahead. I told her she was nuts.


  8. - FIREDup! - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:28 pm:

    His US Senate fundraiser @ Floyd’s. Sat and drank beer with us most of the night. Such a cool cat!


  9. - Now What? - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:31 pm:

    Walked a picket line with him and Michelle in ‘02. Great guy who was curious and empathetic.


  10. - Reality Check - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:36 pm:

    Hard to pick just one, but Fired Up reminds me of a Senate funder at Yak-Zies near Wrigley. It was a beautiful summer evening and we had a table on the patio. The candidate grabbed a seat, rolled up his sleeves and helped himself to our platter of wings and pitcher of beer.


  11. - A Jack - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:40 pm:

    When Obama was in the GA and Blagojevich was governor, AFSCME held a rally at the capitol. The Governor was afraid to face us, but Obama came out and gave us a great speech supporting us.


  12. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:50 pm:

    Played cards with him at the IMA offices….worst card player ever.


  13. - One on the House - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 1:50 pm:

    Obama visited an American Legion Post in the North suburbs during his 2004 US Senate campaign. One of the septuagenarian Legionnaires reminded the candidates that good politicians bought voters drinks when visiting bars. Obama had to ask one of his advance people for money to buy a round.


  14. - Ron Burgundy - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 2:09 pm:

    Attended a F/R with him at a big Chicago law firm during his failed run against Bobby Rush. Spent most of the time talking to the young associates and really engaged with us instead of doing the expected and hanging out with the corner office fat cat partners. Really appreciated it and never forgot it. Came away with the sense he was going places. Boy, was he.


  15. - Anonymous - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 2:14 pm:

    From a lobbyist:

    “That wouldn’t help my people.”


  16. - Gruntled University Employee - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 2:30 pm:

    2005, Illinois State Fair, Democrats Day, Breakfast at Crown Plaza. I hung around late to trade baby pics with Lisa Madigan (our daughters were both infants) and talk with my long lost cousin, Dan Hynes (that’s a story in and of itself). As I was leaving I ran into a visibly upset Senator Obama talking through clenched teeth on his cell phone, he got left behind. I offered him a ride to the fair grounds on my Harley, he politely declined and was actually able to chuckle at the thought of himself on the back of my Road Glide.


  17. - Dennis - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 2:51 pm:

    Before he received secret service protection I was contacted to pick up 5 vans from the moline airport and find 1 more driver and meet BO and his team at the Dubuque airport and drive him to 7 events in two days down the Mississippi River from DBQ to Clinton, Davenport, Muscatine, than Burlington Iowa airport. I spoke when I was spoken to and drove safely.


  18. - go sox - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:05 pm:

    introducing him to wilco.


  19. - Bogey Golfer - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:06 pm:

    When Obama was State Senator, he was getting off an elevator at the Capitol. My wife was chaperoning a bunch of high school students for a field trip, and was about to get on the elevator. They did the ‘back and forth, excuse me, no after you.’ Today, my wife claims she danced with Obama.


  20. - Cheryl44 - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:14 pm:

    I met him at Double Duty’s wake in 2005. I knew Mr. Radcliffe From hanging out with him at the ballpark. So anyway, I went in, talked to the family a bit, then snuck out to the side of the church for a smoke. There was Senator Obama. We talked about the White Sox chances that year–he was the first person I heard insist that 2005 was The Year. Then I went back in and talked some more, and went on my way. Of course when I got home I called everyone I knew I told them I’d met Buck O’Neil.


  21. - Rich Miller - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:15 pm:

    ===introducing him to wilco. ===

    You really need to tell us that story.


  22. - Drummergirl - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:17 pm:

    Somehow I surprised HIM when I greeted him by name at the 2002-ish UFCW Local 881 spring Legislative Reception at the Sangamo, to which he replied “Wow somebody actually knows my name!”


  23. - NIref - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:34 pm:

    Summer 2004 at a stump speech in a Bolingbrook park. He took the time to chat with us, a handful of high school students. One of the first times I met someone genuinely interested in people beyond pandering. Immediately began pounding on doors for him.


  24. - Threepwood - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:42 pm:

    Drummergirl:

    Way back when I was an intern handling mailings to state legislators, I would stuff envelopes with his name weekly. It always gave me pause: “Who is this guy with the weird name? Sounds foreign, how’d he end up a legislator here? Bet he has an interesting backstory.” I developed quite the anonymous fondness for him before I’d ever even seen the guy, like an imaginary friend. Amusing that during the campaign, the Obama seen by both sides was pretty much imaginary, too.


  25. - PceLvr - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:51 pm:

    When he came over to my house for dinner after his farewell speech….


  26. - Tommydanger - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 3:54 pm:

    I met him when he was running for the Senate and he came to speak to our county central committee meeting. I said to Dan Shomon who was with him at the time, that this guy has “it”. I didn’t mean that race, but that he was that rare candidate who had that unique blend of charisma, speaking ability and that special skill of connecting one on one to each member of crowd without speaking to them individually.

    I’ve seen Simon, Hartigan and Dixon speak; all terrific on the stump. Obama beat them all in his delivery. I take a great deal of pride in my endorsement of him when the conventional wisdom and the party big wigs were behind Hynes.


  27. - siriusly - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 4:10 pm:

    Watching him getting into a shouting match with Allen Keyes during a parade on the North Side of Chicago.

    But my real favorite Obama story is the story of the guy who was a really good president before the crazy came to town.


  28. - walker - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 4:16 pm:

    Was at the Daily Herald waiting for candidate endorsement interviews. Obama, running for State Senate, arrived alone and early. He spent the time talking individually to several of the folks working there. The receptionist was charmed and grateful, and told me no other politician had ever really paid attention to her. I liked him right off.


  29. - GV - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 5:12 pm:

    I was invited to a breakfast for him in the basement of a church in Decatur prior to the 2004 primary. One of the ministers, if I remember correctly, gave a hell of an introduction, and then there was no Obama. After a minute or two Obama ducked out of the kitchen and apologized, but told us thr people cooking the food vote too!


  30. - Professor - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 5:21 pm:

    I drove up to the South Shore Country Club (Chicago) to attend newly elected State Senator Obama’s early fundraisers. There were about 25 people in attendance. I stayed a brief time, I did not recognize anyone from Springfield and it was a 3 1/2 hour drive back home. It was raining and traffic was heavy. I called my wife from the car phone, remember those, and she said “What in the hell did you go up there for?” I remember replying “Well you never know. He might be somebody, some day.” I ment leadership in Springfield, etc. I think if I ‘had known’ I would have turned the car around and stayed a little longer.


  31. - Arthur Andersen - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 6:00 pm:

    I met him for the first time in the men’s room next to Room 212 in the Capitol during a hearing that was in its third hour. I was on the way out, he was on the way in, and asked me “Got a smoke, bro?” I didn’t, but offered a breath mint.


  32. - Grandson of Man - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 6:26 pm:

    “When Obama was in the GA and Blagojevich was governor, AFSCME held a rally at the capitol. The Governor was afraid to face us, but Obama came out and gave us a great speech supporting us.”

    I was there and remember this too–my only “encounter” with Obama. The place was packed, if I remember correctly.


  33. - John - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 6:40 pm:

    I played basketball a few times when I was at the YMCA in downtown Springfield.

    He would take smoke breaks sometimes after games…lol


  34. - David Starrett - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 7:07 pm:

    I already knew Barack because my client (IVI-IPO) had urged me to connect with him several years before. He was their hero and hope. We got along great, but Barack wasn’t going to be the firebrand reformer that the Hyde Park people expected.

    Fast-forward.

    Barack is a newly-minted US Senator recently appointed to the Foreign Relations Committee (almost unheard of for a freshman) who had wowed the nation only a year before with a keynote speech to the Democratic national convention. People were calling him “rock-star.”

    I have no idea what he was doing in the empty State capitol rotunda on a summer day, and I can’t remember why I was there either, but I strolled up to him and said, “Hey-there rock-star!” He knew who I was and that I had cracked him up before in awkward situations, but this time he seemed unsure for a second, then he doubled-over laughing. That’s the Barack I’ll remember.


  35. - Small Town Girl - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 7:52 pm:

    I attended a fund raiser for a candidate for Senate I had never heard of because a friend needed bodies. While everyone was getting pictures taken with him, I stayed back because I was having a bad hair day. Needless to say my Facebook profile pic is not of me with the President.


  36. - Sigh - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 9:10 pm:

    I was walking around the rail at the Capitol and he went over to talk to a group of kids that looked bored. He shook with the 10-12 African American students, who were probably 13 years old. They asked who he was and he said: “Barack Obama, remember the name.” They all laughed and one said are you a legislator or something?


  37. - Flyer - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 9:49 pm:

    When we were on the opposite sides of a vote one time he asked me why I voted the way I did, I explained my rationale, and he said ” you know what , I should have talked to you. “


  38. - wordslinger63@gmail.com - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 10:21 pm:

    –I met him for the first time in the men’s room next to Room 212 in the Capitol during a hearing that was in its third hour. I was on the way out, he was on the way in, and asked me “Got a smoke, bro?” I didn’t, but offered a breath mint.–

    Classic. It’s been a while, but it’s an old-school “Gents” by Room 212, is it not?


  39. - ChiGirl - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 10:36 pm:

    Back in 2001-2002, I worked on the Exec Staff of a State Constitutional Officer. That official put together a task force on racial profiling and I was in charge of coordinating the meetings, ordering breakfast, etc. I remember meeting then State Senator Obama at one of those 7am meetings as he was a member of the task force. After the meeting started, I remember him calling me over, handing me a 5 dollar bill and asking me if I’d run out and get him some green tea. I also remember thinking at the time, its 7am, I was out late with my friends last night, I am so tired, I have a vast array of coffee and juices available, and you want me to run out into the cold to get you a green tea?! :) Of course, now I like to tell people I served the President of the United States tea, lol.

    But what I also remember about that meeting was listening to Senator Obama recount an incident when he was pulled over by police and possibly racially profiled. The way he spoke and recounted the story…it really drew me in and helped me understand how important the issue was. And I remember thinking, this man is going to go places someday…. and here we are. :)


  40. - Downstater - Thursday, Jan 19, 17 @ 11:41 pm:

    Summer of 05 or 06, I was staffing him and we were at Democrat Day at the State Fair. At the back of the stage there was a holding area for all the speakers. Obama and Speaker Madigan were saying hello to other people when they literally bumped backs, with both turning around to see who they had bumped into. Obama joked to Speaker Madigan, trying to break the ice about what was becoming a perceived public rift — “you know, a lot of people in the press are making a big deal about us supposedly not getting along”…to which Speaker Madigan deadpanned “You can handle it” and went on his way.


  41. - CCP Hostage - Friday, Jan 20, 17 @ 9:25 am:

    He was on my list to see about our issue. Went to his Illinois Senate office, and there he was, smoking at his desk. I had just quit myself, couldn’t pronounce his name, and my partner assured me that he would be non committal anyway, so, we skipped seeing him…worst mistake ever.


  42. - vibes - Friday, Jan 20, 17 @ 2:33 pm:

    For a while pre-2003 we were both regulars at Chicago sessions of the Democratic Leadership Council (yes THAT DLC). We were friendly, and he bought me lunch about the same time he was telling lots of other folks that he didn’t want to run against Stroger or Daley, he figured Vallas or Blago would be Gov, and that he was thinking hard about Senate. I said sign me up, but — due to some other life circumstances — never did much more than write a foreign policy speech or two for him.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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