Chicago Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

by Robert Roman

Chicago’s 2012 Eugene V. Debs — Norman Thomas — Michael Harrington Dinner will be held on Friday evening, April 27, at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza, just west of the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago. The evening begins with a cash bar at 6 PM. The Dinner is at 7 PM. The program usually starts about 8 PM.

Michael Harrington’s The Other America was published 50 years ago this March. It eloquently revealed poverty in the United States to be persistent and not isolated. Dwight Macdonald’s 40 page review in the New Yorker in 1963 was effectively a second publication. When Walter Heller gave the book to President Kennedy, it got credit for catalyzing what later became Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” There are good reasons to be cynical about why poverty became a major item on the nation’s agenda back then. Yet contrary to conservative cant, the social programs of the 1960s were not a failure even if they were not a success. When The Other America was published, nearly 30% of the U.S. population lived at or below 125% of the poverty line. Today, even in the lingering shadow of the Great Recession and decades of conservative sabotage, that number is a bit less than 20%. Our honorees this year are outstanding examples of how the fight against poverty is basically a fight for justice. This year we are honoring John Bouman and Chicago Jobs with Justice.



John Bouman

John Bouman is President of, and Director of Advocacy at, the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. He is also a leader in the Responsible Budget Coalition, which waged a nearly successful campaign to bring fiscal sanity to Illinois State government and to preserve human service and education funding. Bouman was a leader in the successful statewide effort to create the Family Care and All Kids programs that provide health insurance to the working poor and their children. He is recognized for being one of the most effective and thoughtful public benefit advocates in the country.

Chicago DSA has a long history with Chicago Jobs with Justice so we’re not exactly impartial when we call them Chicago’s premier labor — community organization. Not long after Jobs with Justice was founded in 1987, Chicago DSA was among the handful of organizations and individuals who worked to get a chapter organized here in Chicago. Since then, Chicago Jobs with Justice has been a vital part of the struggle for universal health care, fair trade rather than free trade, peace rather than war, labor rights, preserving public services, and full employment.


Ruth Conniff

Our featured speaker is Ruth Conniff. She is the Political Editor of The Progressive, a panelist on the PBS show “To the Contrary”, and co-editor (with Paul Buhle) of It Started in Wisconsin. Fresh from Wisconsin where the Other America, the real America is fighting back, she will provide an interesting perspective on today’s other America.

I hope you will be a part of this year’s Dinner. This is going to be a really good event. You won’t want to miss it, unless you must, and even then you’ll want to be represented in the Dinner’s program book.

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