Bring America Home: Chicago’s 52nd Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

Carl Rosen, Flint Taylor, Kim Bobo, and William Greider Photo by John Scott

by Bob Roman

Chicago DSA‘s 2010 Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner gathered together people representing Chicago’s legal, labor, liberal, and left communities to honor the People’s Law Office and the United Electrical Workers’ Western Regional President Carl Rosen. Author William Greider was our featured speaker. The event was held on Friday evening, May 7, at what is becoming its current home, the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, located at Madison and Halsted in Chicago.

Kim Bobo was our Master of Ceremonies. We have been so fortunate to have her help at our Dinners. In my opinion, she’s the best since Leon Despres.

Flint Taylor (People's Law Office) and Tom Broderick (DSA) Photo by John Scott

Flint Taylor accepted the award to the People’s Law Office from Greater Oak Park DSA  (GOPDSA) Co-Chair Tom Broderick. Taylor went on to recognize some of the people, present and not, who helped found the law collective and helped make it one of the major resources in defense of civil liberties in Chicago. He spoke briefly about the history of the People’s Law Office and its current work.

Carl Rosen (United Electrical Workers) and Ron Baiman (DSA). Photo by John Scott

Carl Rosen accepted the Debs Thomas Harrington award from Chicago DSA Co-Chair Ron Baiman. Rosen found this conceptually difficult. The United Electrical Workers (UE) sees itself as, and tries its best to be, a rank-and-file union; in that context, an officer of the union accepting an award could be seen as presumptuous. So he used the occasion to promote Warehouse Workers for Justice (www.warehouseworker.org ), a UE project that is organizing warehouse workers in Chicago’s southwestern suburbs, most of whom are not actual employees but temp workers (despite years on the job for some) with all the vulnerability that comes with that status.

The theme of this year’s Dinner was “Bring America Home!” This was a deliberate variation on the title of William Greider’s latest book, Come Home America, though it works very well as a demand the left should be making more vociferously of the Obama Administration. Greider’s speech was drawn mostly from the latter part of his latest book, and dealt with what we can do to change the direction our country is headed. It was an optimistic talk, and for those of you who missed it, I would suggest reading the book. Or, if you live in Chicago and have cable, the event was taped for later broadcast on CANTV, Chicago’s public access cable network.

As someone who has helped organized these dinners for the past twenty years, I want to thank all of you who supported this year’s event. It was especially important this year because DSA has become one of the right-wing’s favorite hate-objects. (To be fair, they have so many!) Considering what’s become of ACORN, this is not a trivial matter. In justifying their passion, conservatives do exaggerate our influence. But with your help, we’ll do our best to live up to their paranoia.

For an unconspiratorial, all-volunteer organization like Chicago DSA, this is a tall order. But the 52nd Annual Dinner was an optimistic affair, and the participation this year of so many good people gives us all the more reason to be so. Thank you.

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