Monday, February 11, 2008

Reach of community development

Last Thursday's Chicago Neighborhood Development Awards -- the first I've attended in nearly five years of "scribing" for LISC's New Communities Program, I'm embarrassed to admit -- brought home the reach of the community development field in Chicago for me in a way that nothing else quite has to date.

Patrick Barry's earlier post here about having drinks with 1,400 of his closest friends was no joke - the ballroom at the Hyatt where the awards ceremony took place held more than 100 tables, and if not everyone quite knew everyone, the sense of familiarity and the friendly buzz of coming together around a shared purpose were both palpable.

The fact that the people in that room included Mayor Daley -- who interrupted a visit with the Secretary General of the United Nations to give the keynote lecture -- and the long roster of aldermen and city department heads showed the field's steadily growing clout.

And LISC/Chicago's Andy Mooney made a one-off reference to the possibility that clout could grow considerably later this year, when he mentioned that "one of our own" could be elected president of the United States. Andy's reference to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama's candidacy did not just refer to Obama's quarter-century-long ties to Chicago, but his work as a community organizer in the 1980s.

Whatever your preference in the remaining Democratic primaries, or in the general election in the fall, it's hard not to think that having "one of our own" rise this far thus far is a noteworthy development in and of itself for Chicago's communities.

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