Massive Snowstorm Batters Chicago: The Chicago Blizzard of 2011

Massive Snowstorm Batters Chicago: The Chicago Blizzard of 2011

Chicago is a city that prides itself on its ability to conquer any snowstorm that comes its way, but it woke up on Wednesday to discover that hundreds of people had been trapped by a massive blizzard for hours along a prominent roadway that runs smack through the heart of the city.  Among the scenes described by those who spent most or all of the harrowing night on Lake Shore Drive: Frustrated drivers trying to unclog the roads by pushing stuck and abandoned cars through snow-filled exit ramps; a band of passengers crowded inside one Chicago Transit Authority bus, deciding after five hours to make a run for it (many were forced to turn back); people who ventured out, perhaps from their homes along Lake Shore Drive, to deliver cereal bars, water and Gatorade to those who had been stranded.

Cold winds were part two of the brutal storm system that stranded motorists, caused power outages, forced the cancelation of thousands of flights and closed down schools across the region, including Chicago schools for the first time since 1999.  On Wednesday, winds of up to 70 mph had whipped up around about 20.2 inches of snow, creating high drifts and some whiteout conditions that made driving hazardous. Thursday’s sub-zero temperatures were expected to add a different layer of misery for commuters.

At 7 a.m. on Thursday, the temperature at O’Hare International Airport was zero with a wind chill of 11 below.  Wind chills were expected to plumet to 20 below by early afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. Under such conditions, frostbite can develop within 30 minutes, officials said.  Emergency personnel worked overnight to clear Lake Shore Drive of the large number of abandoned vehicles and huge mounds of snow, according a spokesman for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications.

The Chicago Blizzard of 2011

Two Fifty Three Kelvin: A Winter Music Video

Slide Show: The Chicago Blizzard of 2011

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Change in the Metropolis: A Tale of Two Cities

A Former New York: Photographs from the 1960’s and 70’s

Old New York: Photography by Elliott Erwitt, NYC

Slide Show: Photographs of New York in the 1960’s and 70’s

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A Former Chicago: Photographs from the 1960’s and 70’s

Chicago’s South Side in the 1940’s: Photography by Wayne Miller

Slide Show: Photographs of Chicago in the 1960’s and 70’s

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Chicago’s Studs Terkel Dies at 96: A Champion of the Human Spirit

Chicago’s Studs Terkel Dies at 95: A Champion of the Human Spirit

NBC News: Chicago’s Studs Terkel Dies at the Age of 96

Studs Terkel Dies: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

The New York Times has reported that Chicago’s legendary Studs Terkel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose searching interviews with ordinary Americans helped establish oral history as a serious genre, and who for decades was the enthusiastic host of a popular nationally syndicated radio show on WFMT-FM in Chicago, died Friday at his home there at the age of 96.

In his oral histories, which he called guerrilla journalism, Mr. Terkel relied on his effusive but gentle interviewing style to bring forth in rich detail the experiences and thoughts of his fellow citizens. For more than the four decades, Studs produced a continuous narrative of great historic moments sounded by an American chorus in the native vernacular.

Division Street: America (1966), his first best seller, explored the urban conflicts of the 1960s. Its success led to Hard Times: An Oral History of the Great Depression (1970) and Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do (1974).

Mr. Terkel’s book The Good War: An Oral History of World War II won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. In Talking to Myself: A Memoir of My Times (1977), Terkel turned the microphone on himself to produce an engaging memoir. In Race: How Blacks and Whites Think and Feel About the American Obsession (1992) and Coming of Age: The Story of Our Century by Those Who’ve Lived It (1995), he reached for his ever-present tape recorder for interviews on race relations in the United States and the experience of growing old.

In 1985 a reviewer for The Financial Times of London characterized his books as “completely free of sociological claptrap, armchair revisionism and academic moralizing.” The amiable Mr. Terkel was a gifted and seemingly tireless interviewer who elicited provocative insights and colorful, detailed personal histories from a broad mix of people. “The thing I’m able to do, I guess, is break down walls,” he once told an interviewer. “If they think you’re listening, they’ll talk. It’s more of a conversation than an interview.”

Readers of his books could only guess at Mr. Terkel’s interview style. Listeners to his daily radio show, which was first broadcast on WFMT-FM in 1958, got the full flavor as Studs, with both breathy eagerness and a tough-guy Chicago accent, went after the straight dope from guests like Sir Georg Solti, Muhammed Ali, Mahalia Jackson, the young Dob Dylan, Toni Morrison and Gloria Steinem.

Now that the author-radio host-actor-activist and Chicago symbol has died, what should be his epitaph? “My epitaph will be ‘Curiosity did not kill this cat,'” he once said.

The entire New York Times article can be read here.

Rick Kogan has written a detailed article in The Chicago Tribune, which can be read here.

Studs Terkel’s website at The Chicago Historical Society can be accessed here.

Studs Terkel’s (1970) WFMT-FM radio interview with me (Patrick Zimmerman) can be heard here. Parts of this radio interview later become a selection (pp. 489-493) in Terkel’s acclaimed book, Working:

Audio: Part I of The Radio Interview

Audio: Part II of The Radio Interview

Studs Terkel: Remembering His Life and Times

Conversations about Studs Terkel (2004)

Studs Terkel: About the Human Spirit (2002)

Studs Terkel: The Pioneering Broadcaster

Music Audio: Mavis Staples/Hard Times :

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A Critical Moment: Barack Obama Accepts the Historic Presidential Nomination

A Critical Moment: Barack Obama Accepts the Historic Presidential Nomination

An Overview of the 2008 Democratic Convention’s Concluding Session

On Thursday, the 2008 Democratic National Convention moved into Denver’s Invesco Field so that more Americans could be a part of the fourth and final night of the Convention, where Barack Obama accepted the historic Democratic nomination for President. A crowd of almost 85,000 people attended the convention’s assembly at Invesco to hear Senator Obama’s acceptance speech.

Oscar-winning singer and Broadway actress Jennifer Hudson sang the National Anthem, and there were a number of other live live musical performances, including appearances by will.i.am (accompanied by John Legend, Agape choir, and band), the singer Sheryl Crowe and the legendary Stevie Wonder.

Before Senator Obama’s acceptance speech, Former Vice-President Al Gore spoke in support of Obama. Gore expressed heated criticisms about a number of public policy positions held by both Senator McCain and President Bush. His criticisms pointed to a number of specific issues in areas that included the environment, the economy and foreign affairs. Following Al Gore’s remarks, a biographic video of Obama was shown, which was directed by Davis Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning Director of An Inconvenient Truth.

Dave Stewart’s All-Star Music Video: My American Prayer

Replay: A Live Blogging of the Entire Acceptance Speech Event

A Biographic Tribute Video: The Search for Self

All Across the Nation, Something is Stirring

Barack Obama addressed a crowd of almost 85,000 supporters at the concluding session of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver Thursday evening, accepting the historic Democratic nomination for President of the United States. By Friday morning, a true avalanche of reviews had appeared, articles by so-called political-pundits representing both the mainstream media and new media bloggers. Many of the reviewers were enthralled by Senator Obama’s speech, but others were left with mixed feelings. Of the latter, some felt that his address failed to display the soaring, inspirational oratory that was characteristic of Obama’s earlier speeches, while others naively complained that his speech was just a repeat of his high-minded oratory that lacked any substance or specifics.

The pundits who were critical tended to churn out reviews that reflected a tenuous ability to grasp deeper or complex meanings, reviews that were highly superficial. These political-pundits are often the media’s more well-known public voices, but voices whose body of writings generally reflects a narcissistic conviction of entitlement. In fact, the dangerously alarming truth of the matter is that they view political events that are crucial to all Americans as their own personal sparkling merry-go-round, where their last political love affair is simply an entrée to their next encounter.

In sharply defined contrast, Barack Obama is a deeply thoughtful man, a characteristic once again revealed in his talk with supporters in the Invesco stadium on Thursday evening, many of whom during various parts of his address listened quietly in personal contemplative concentration. Not only was Obama addressing in detail the specifics of his positions during the acceptance speech, but far beyond that he was teaching and thus sharing with his supporters an understanding of the logic of his positions, as well as the logic supporting his reasons for repudiating Senator McCain’s political beliefs. In this context, Senator Obama clarified for all of America the fundamental motivation underlying the choice to embark upon his improbable and difficult run for the presidency: that neither Senator McCain, nor President Bush, nor the Republican administration will own up to their failures and to the devastating, often tragic results of those failures.

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With Profound Gratitude and Great Humility, I Accept

Music Audio: The O’Jays/Love Train

Barack Obama Wins Historic Presidential Nomination

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Live-Blogging 2008 Democratic Convention: Obama Wins Historic Presidential Nomination

Barack Obama Wins Historic Presidential Nomination

On Wednesday afternoon, Senator Barack Obama was officially named the Presidential Nominee of the Democratic Party, crowning his historic meteoric rise from a little-known Illinois state senator to becoming the first African-American ever to win a major-party’s presidential nomination.

Initially, there had been an element of dramatic suspense about just how the nomination process actually would unfold. However, before the roll call was taken Senator Clinton had released her delegates to vote for Mr. Obama and announced that she was voting for Obama and his running mate, Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware. The roll call proceeded alphabetically, and when New Mexico’s turn came, it yielded the floor to the state of Illinois, Obama’s home state; Illinois, in turn, ceded its position to New York.

At the urging of Senator Clinton, the New York delegation cast all of its votes for Senator Obama, and at 4:48 p.m. local time, Clinton made a motion to end the roll call and to nominate Barack Obama by acclamation. Her motion was passed unanimously by the convention delegates; Nancy Pelosi, Permanent Chair of the Democratic National Convention, then named Barack Obama the official Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

On Thursday night, the National Democratic Convention is moving to Invesco Field so that more Americans can take part in of the fourth night of the Convention, where Barack Obama will accept the Democratic nomination for President. Invesco Field’s doors will open at around 5:00 p.m. (local time), and the event will end at 9:00 p.m. (local time). A crowd that is now estimated to be larger than 80,000 people is expected to attend the final convention assembly to hear Obama’s acceptance speech.

A number of acclaimed musicians are scheduled to perform during the event. Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder and Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas will be performing. Jon Bon Jovi is flying in to perform two acoustic songs before Sen. Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech, and the Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson (from Chicago) will sing the National Anthem near speech time. After Obama’s acceptance speech, Bruce Springsteen will perform to close out the evening.

Al Gore is scheduled to be the first speaker of the evening. Then at 8:00 p.m. (local time) Senator Richard Durbin from Illinois will present a biographical video of Obama, directed by Davis Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth and afterwards Durbin will introduce Senator Obama.

Obama’s acceptance speech is being held on the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have a Dream speech. It was on August 28th, 1963, that King, the most revered civil rights leader in the nation’s history, proclaimed on the steps of Washington’s Lincoln Memorial: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’ “

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Marking a Historic Day: Yes We Can

Live-Blogging: Obama Wins Presidential Nomination

Barack Obama Wins the Democratic Presidential Nomination

Music Audio: The O’Jays/Love Train

Obama Wins Historic Presidential Nomination

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The 2008 Denver National Democratic Convention: Live Blogging


Dave Stewart: American Prayer

The Democratic National Convention: Live Blogging

Michelle Obama Addresses the Democratic National Convention

Michelle Obama presented the first major address at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver on Monday evening. Speaking to the delegates, Michelle described herself as a daughter, sister, wife and mother, no different from many other women. She told an exuberant crowd in the convention center that she and her husband feel an obligation to “fight for the world as it should be” to assure the promise of a better life both for their own daughters and for all children.

Michelle Obama talked about tucking her daughters Malia and Sasha into bed at night. “I think about how one day, they’ll have families of their own. And one day, they, and your own sons and daughters, will tell their own children about what we did together in this election. They’ll tell them how this time, we listened to our hopes, instead of our fears. How this time, we decided to stop doubting and to start dreaming,” she said.

Michelle Obama: We Listen to Our Hopes and Dreams

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy: Hope Rises Again, the Dream Lives On

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, struggling with brain cancer, arrived at the Democratic National Convention on Monday night in a triumphant appearance that evoked 50 years of party history. No was sure until the very last moment whether Senator Kennedy actually would be able to make a personal appearance at the convention, given the severity of his illness. Kennedy arrived at the convention site shortly before darkness fell, accompanied by a large group of family members. He walked a few halting steps to a waiting golf cart, which drove him into the arena.

After a speech was given by his niece Caroline Kennedy and a video tribute to him was shown, Senator Kennedy walked slowly to the lectern, limping slightly, with his wife, Victoria, who kissed him and left him there. The crowd gave him a standing ovation and many people were seen wiping tears from their eyes; they cheered for almost two minutes until he settled them down.

My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here,” said Senator Kennedy, his voice booming across the hall. “And nothing–nothing–is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight.” A stool that had been slipped behind him went unused during his 10-minute speech. And while Kennedy spoke slowly and at times haltingly, his voice was firm and he was in command of this moment, gesturing and sounding very much like the man who enraptured the party’s convention 28 years ago.

There is a new wave of change all around us,” he said, “and if we set our compass true, we will reach our destination–not merely victory for our party, but renewal for our nation. And this November, the torch will be passed again to a new generation of Americans. So with Barack Obama, and for you and for me, our country will be committed to his cause.”

Invoking his parting remarks to the 1980 Democratic National Convention as he ceded the presidential nomination to Jimmy Carter, he promised that “the dream will never die. The work begins anew, the hope rises again, and the dream lives on.”

Sen. Edward Kennedy: Hope Rises Again, the Dream Lives On

Music Audio: We Are The World


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Barack Obama: A Manner of Thinking

The Obama Campaign: In Retrospect

The Obama Campaign: Now Looking Forward

Three days after claiming the nomination, Senator Obama, who makes infrequent visits to the campaign’s Chicago headquarters, offered his gratitude by way of a motivational pep talk. “I want everybody to catch your breath. Do what you do to get your ya-ya’s out – that’s an old ’60s expression – and then understand that coming back we’re going to have to work twice as hard as we’ve been working,” Mr. Obama said. “We’re going to have to be smarter, we’re going to have to be tougher, our game is going to have to be tighter.”

Before finishing, he included a self-assessment, saying, “I am going to have to be a better candidate.”

From that point forward, the 2008 presidential campaign plainly will be different from what American voters have grown accustomed to. Senator Obama’s status as the first African-American nominee of a major party is only the most easily recognizable difference. However, there are a number of other important distinctions, such as style, scale and the silence of the leading journalistic voice in contemporary political culture. The style contrast is based upon Obama’s clearly more accomplished eloquent presentation of his speeches during the campaign primaries, delivered to huge audiences all across the country.

The scale difference flows from Obama’s record-shattering ability to raise money. If Mr. Obama casts off the constraints of taxpayer financing in the general election, as strategists in both parties expect, he’ll have an unprecedented range of options for communicating with voters by being free of the spending limits that accompany public financing.

The silence is the absence of Tim Russert, who died last week at 58. As the leading political analyst in the American media, he played an arbiter’s role that echoed beyond the viewership of Meet the Press on NBC. This general election will be the first since 1988 without Russert as the moderator of that program.

Senator Obama Reflects on the Loss of Tim Russert

The Initial Focus Upon Broader Visions: Public Statements and Policy Announcements

Like most presidential candidates, Senator Obama has been developing his executive skills on the run, while at the same time being under intense media scrutiny. The evolution of his style in recent months suggests that he is defining new procedures to confront a challenge that he has not faced in his career: managing a large organization.

That skill will become more important should he win the presidency, and his style is getting added attention as the country absorbs the lessons of President Bush’s tenure in the Oval Office. Mr. Bush’s critics, including former aides, have portrayed him as too cloistered, too dependent on a small coterie of trusted aides, unable to distinguish between loyalty and competence, and insufficiently willing to adjust course in the face of events that do not unfold the way he expects.

Mr. Obama’s earlier style was marked by an aversion to leaks and public drama, and he had assembled a small group of advisers who exhibited discipline and loyalty in carrying out his priorities. He has always read widely and encouraged alternative views in policy-making discussions, but earlier he liked to keep the process crisp. During the primaries, Obama delegated many decisions, and virtually all tasks, to a core group that oversaw a sprawling, yet centralized operation in his Chicago campaign headquarters, which going into the general election season now is absorbing many political functions of Washington’s Democratic National Committee.

Mr. Obama stays connected to advisers and friends via a BlackBerry, sending frequent but unsigned messages that are to the point. A discussion that cannot be conducted in a sentence or two is likely to be finished by telephone. A night owl, Mr. Obama is known to send e-mail messages well after midnight. In interviews with more than two dozen senior advisers, campaign aides and friends, a portrait of Mr. Obama has emerged as a concerned but not obsessive manager. By now, his associates have learned, there is no need to deluge him with unnecessary details, so long as someone knows them.

On policy issues, Mr. Obama can have a photographic memory of intricate details. Earlier, most high-level gatherings involving Mr. Obama were held either in his kitchen or at an office away from campaign headquarters, and were expected to unfold in an orderly manner. Written agendas and concise briefings were preferred. His style has usually been to not stir up dissent simply for the sake of dissent, but he often employs what some have called a Socratic method of discussion, where aides put ideas forward for him to accept or reject.

Defining Details That Support His Broader Visions

If a presidential campaign is intended to be a test-run for the presidency, during the campaign primaries Obama’s chief priorities had been the words in his speeches, messages in his television advertising and policy pronouncements. On other matters, even if he disagreed, he often allowed himself to be overruled.

But now, Obama has clearly picked up the reins in his campaign, quickly moving to take control in defining some of the more precise details that support his broader visions for America.

Obama Elaborates Specifics Central to His Broad Visions

An Appeal for People to Embrace Personal Courage and Responsibility

Senator Obama made what may have been one of his most influential presentations so far in the post-primary campaign, when he spoke at church on Father’s Day. In an address that was striking for its bluntness and where he chose to give it, Mr. Obama directly addressed one of the most delicate topics confronting Black leaders: how much responsibility absent fathers bear for some of the intractable problems afflicting Black Americans. In his speech, he was strongly critical of the failure of so many African-American men to live up to their responsibilities in raising their children, citing that dramatically growing numbers of them have simply abandoned their families. His words were crucial in once again attempting to recast the image of the Democratic Party.

For too many years, Democrats have been increasingly perceived as controlled by a host of liberal special interest groups, from labor and teachers’ unions to women’s and gay rights groups. But none of those groups have been viewed as more influential, and in many respects, as damaging to the party than African-Americans. Obama’s address strongly confronted African-Americans with the view that their failure to succeed in America begins with the increasingly debilitated core of their families, rather than constantly displacing blame onto racism, using it as a crutch to explain away their failures to make progress in America’s political, educational, cultural and social institutions.

The broader issue is whether social problems exist because of flawed individuals or flawed social systems. Cognizant of the fact that entire universities of Ivy-league sociologists, radical Leftists and many Democrats have opted for the latter, Obama wisely drew our attention to the boot straps. Praising God, he said relatively little else about religion, but more importantly he paid tribute to women, lauding women in general and single mothers in particular. Obama listed some of the many heroic things that single mothers do, and illustrated his praise with reminiscences about his own mother.

Speaking at Chicago’s Apostolic Church of God, Obama said that more police on the street and job training programs are essential for a safe and sound society, “But we also need families to raise our children.” Admitting that he has been “an imperfect father,” Barack Obama spoke of the need for African American men to live up to their responsibilities during the Father’s Day sermon. Saying that too many Black fathers are “missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Obama said these men “have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

I say this knowing that I have been an imperfect father, knowing that I have made mistakes and will continue to make more; wishing that I could be home for my girls and my wife more than I am right now,” said Obama, as his daughters Sasha and Malia sat with his wife, Michelle Obama. “I say this, knowing all of these things, because even as we are imperfect, even as we face difficult circumstances, there are still certain lessons we must strive to live and learn as fathers, whether we are Black or White; rich or poor; from the South Side or the wealthiest suburb.”

Describing his own experience of being abandoned by his father at the age of two, Obama said he was fortunate to have his grandparents aid his mother in his upbringing. “Even though my father left us when I was two years old, and I only knew him from the letters he wrote and the stories that my family told, I was luckier than most. I grew up in Hawaii, and had two wonderful grandparents from Kansas who poured everything they had into helping my mother raise my sister and me, who worked with her to teach us about love and respect and the obligations we have to one another,” he told the audience. “I screwed up more often than I should’ve, but I got plenty of second chances. And even though we didn’t have a lot of money, scholarships gave me the opportunity to go to some of the best schools in the country. A lot of kids don’t get these chances today. There is no margin for error in their lives.”

A Call for Personal Courage and Responsibility

The Evolution of Obama’s Political Thoughts and Positions During the Campaign

Barack Obama’s strong appeal earlier in the presidential campaign was largely based upon his commanding oratorical skills. His speeches enthralled huge audiences all across the nation, speeches that were eloquent, emotionally uplifting and powerfully resonating with particular broad themes: unity, hope and change. Obama’s early appeal quickly was met with criticism from opponents who claimed that what he was offering was “just words” and that instead an effective presidential candidate needed much more than that, it called for a strong background characterized by a lengthy history of political experience at the national level.

Since becoming the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Obama’s campaign stance has moved to one that elaborates many of the more particular issues upon which his broader visions for America rest. Further, as Obama has begun to present his positions on the details of the major issues of the 2008 campaign, some of those positions appear to have an increasingly centrist quality. The latter development, of course, opens him up to a myriad of potential criticisms from members of both the polarized far-left and far-right political groups.

On the other hand, one might view the early phase of Obama’s campaign, during the primaries, as one in which he was engaged in introducing and teaching Americans about his major broad visions for America. Subsequent to becoming the Democratic nominee, Obama’s speeches about the details supporting his visions have revealed much more about his thought processes, and certainly a great deal more than is captured by the naive “centrist” political label. They have revealed a mind that is deliberative, flexible, sensitively responsive to ever-changing contextual issues, and capable of actually recognizing the reality of other people’s perspectives, as well as to consider that their perspectives might be just as good as his own or even better. Perhaps by nature, Obama’s manner of thinking might be described as social-constructivist or, more specifically, dialectical social-constructivism.

Thinking of criticisms that Obama is destined to receive from members of polarized far-right and far-left political groups, I am reminded of a reply that Samuel Beckett offered to a renowned progressive German philosopher who was enduring harsh rebuke from political extremists in 1969. About those fierce attacks, Beckett retorted:

Was ever such rightness joined to such foolishness?”

Barack Obama: On the Meanings of Change

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