Culture of Opportunity

From Aug ’10 Spotlight:

Curtain Call

I heard Rebecca Janowitz lecture last month about her new book Culture of Opportunity (with the long, unwieldy subtitle Obama’s Chicago—the people, politics, and ideas of Hyde Park). More than anything else, this well-researched book is a personal account of a unique partnership between Jewish-Americans and African-Americans living and working together for decades in the shadow of the University of Chicago.

Who knew, for example, that the original funding for Powell’s (now an internationally known used book giant) came from Rebecca’s father, Sociologist Morris Janowitz, partnering with his Jewish colleagues Saul Bellow and Edward Shils? David Axelrod, now Obama’s top political advisor, makes familiar appearances as the University of Chicago alumnus who helped elect Harold Washington, but how many of us remember that early support from Alan and Lois Dobry (who cut their teeth campaigning for Jewish alderman Leon Despres) helped vault Obama to state and then national prominence?

“Great emphasis has been placed on Obama’s choice of a black wife and a black church. This is seen as an attempt to distance himself from his mother’s world. But Hyde Park is his mother’s world.” Something to think about as the 2010 campaign season heats up.

Photo Credit: Marc Monaghan (2010)

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