The historic upset victory of President-elect Donald J. Trump last week sent shockwaves throughout the village of Oak Park and the rest of the world, prompting protests and demonstrations locally and throughout the nation.
Many have condemned Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric but also are coming to the acceptance that the real-estate mogul turned reality TV star will soon be our nation’s head of state.
Wednesday Journal solicited the thoughts of local leaders on the election.
Anan Abu-Taleb, Oak Park Mayor
Our country has spoken
I was so optimistic that she would prevail, confident that I would congratulate my 91-year-old mother-in-law and say to her, “You should be proud, you lived to see our country elect the first woman president.” Unfortunately, I am now feeling the loss for all women but also for our country.
Donald Trump has won the presidency of the United States. And he now has a more difficult mission: he must reach out to win many of our hearts and minds. I am waiting for that knock on my door. Like many, my door is shut, but it is not locked, and because I want what is best for America, my mind is open, too.
Last Friday, Sen. Don Harmon and I attended our Village’s Veterans Day Ceremony. Before the ceremony started, as I bent down and shook hands with a seated veteran, he whispered in my ear that he needed support to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. He said, “I don’t know if I can do it, but I want to try and stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.” I squeezed his hand a little harder and said, “You have stood up plenty for us, you can stay seated.”
In the spirit of that veteran, let us stand up together for our democracy and support the outcome of this election. Let us support our president-elect and give him the opportunity to lead us. Let us wish him well and success.
In the spirit of that veteran, we say to President-elect Trump: the burden is on you to show us that you can be a president for all of us, a president for all Americans regardless of who we love, regardless of our appearance and our wealth, regardless of our skin color, regardless of our physical or mental ability, regardless of where we come from or how we got here, and regardless of who we worship or if we don’t worship at all.
And finally, in the spirit of that veteran and all veterans who have stood up for us, let us rebuild. Let us double-down our efforts to be that party for all Americans. Let us continue to stand up for rights and justice for all of us. Let us continue to stand up for the progress we have made as a nation, and let us continue our efforts to be a welcoming country, a just nation, and a generous and tolerant people.
Muhammad Ali said, “I never thought of losing, but now that it’s happened, the only thing is to do it right. That’s my obligation to all the people who believe in me. We all have to take defeats in life.”
I am grateful to live and raise my family in this country. I am proud to be American. Our nation has spoken, and my candidate didn’t prevail. And for that, I am sorry and sad, but had our country decided for my candidate, I would expect the other party to accept and honor her. I would expect them to congratulate her, support her and wish her success. I would expect them to allow us to come together as one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
La Shawn Ford, Illinois Democratic State Representative (8th District)
What I Believe
It is great that the 2016 United States presidential election has now concluded; whether we like results or not, our election system worked. Good people voted for Hillary Clinton, and good people voted for Donald Trump. Controversy remains about what a Trump presidency will look like. After the inflammatory talk throughout the campaign, we will look to see how President-elect Trump will follow through with his victory speech when he said, “It’s time. I pledge to every citizen of our land that I will be president for all Americans, and this is so important to me.”
I am reminded of the story of the legendary labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph’s meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt before World War II, to get the president to take action against discrimination. President Roosevelt agreed with the need to change, and said, “I agree with you, now go out and make me do it.” This story is one of my favorite lessons showing how our American democracy can work if we listen to everyone and try to meet their needs. I believe in America and the possibilities of becoming greater when we work to make it become greater. In this country, everyone has a right to their beliefs of what makes America great for them. What makes America great are the people who are all different and people who are willing to work hard to fight to make America great for them.
Democrats and Republicans have different philosophies on how to make America greater, but history teaches us that when there is a call to action by the people, America becomes greater. Civil rights, women’s rights and labor rights resulted from citizens fighting to make Republicans and Democrats work together to make America greater. There are many fights ahead – we need to respect and enforce in law every citizen’s right to vote, we need to fight for quality health care for all, and we need criminal justice reform, just to name a few. But even with these policy fights, we can all individually take part in direct action to build up our communities by adopting a child if we are able; volunteering to tutor and mentor in our community; helping the neighbors on our block; picking up trash in the streets; visiting those who are in jail or prison; donating to our favorite charity; or following through with other positive actions we are called to do.
I am hopeful that the people in this country will participate in our process to continue to make America greater and fairer for everyone. President-elect Trump may have a learning curve on issues such as humanitarian needs and criminal justice reforms in America, but I am a believer that America becomes greater when we work to make it better. I am hopeful that America will look past a person’s party affiliation to continue to make America work for the least of us.
Bob Tucker, Oak Park Village Trustee
A new administration will take office in 2017, but that doesn’t mean that our country’s core values – or those of Oak Park – will change. Our democracy has always been stronger and better than any one person, and we must stand strong and use our voice to continue representing and protecting the rights of all people. We also must challenge words and actions that seek to divide us. We will respect our differences and champion our great diversity, both within Oak Park’s borders and throughout our nation. President-Elect Trump said that he would work to improve struggling inner-city neighborhoods, and that is a worthy goal. In fact, now more than ever is the time to stand up for the poor and the disadvantaged, to fight for people and communities too often forgotten, and to ensure this is a country for all Americans. We will stand united as a community, continue to protect each other, and continue to fight for what we believe in.
Rob Breymaier, Executive Director Oak Park Housing Center
“This election cycle and its outcome demonstrated just how divided we are as a nation, especially when it comes to race. Regardless of his own beliefs, the winning candidate was willing to leverage racial fears and hatred for electoral gain. That was possible because our mental and social divides are constantly reinforced by our geographic segregation. In order to build a politics of inclusion, we must create communities that are inclusive. Our work to keep Oak Park integrated is now more important than ever, both for our own sake and as a model for the rest of the nation.”
Peter Barber, Oak Park Village Trustee
Like many Oak Parkers, I was shocked at the outcome of last week’s presidential election. It made me wonder how so many people in our country could view things so completely differently. And it makes me concerned about how we as a nation move forward. But move forward we must. There is much to discuss and figure out now, and I’m confident that we Oak Parkers will do so effectively and without the vitriol and negativity that was so often a part of this year’s national campaign. We can hopefully be a part of finding a way to help our nation heal.
Judith Alexander, chair of the North Avenue District
I wish I had some enlightening thoughts to offer, but I am struggling to make sense of Trump’s election, just like most of those who opposed his candidacy. All of Clinton’s supporters need to understand and learn from what happened, so that we can do better in two years and in four years.
I take comfort in the fact that Clinton won the popular vote, as well as the African-American, Latino and Millennial vote. I am comforted that many people who voted for Trump were really voting for change because they are suffering economically, not out of hate for minorities. I’m also comforted by our system of checks and balances, which will hopefully place some limitations on what Mr. Trump and the Republicans are able to do. If Mr. Trump tries to abrogate any of these checks and balances, which I fear he might do, I am hopeful that members of his own party will refuse to go along.
Many executive actions can be undone. My fears center on those that cannot be reversed. I fear that climate change—so close to being irreversible—will truly become irreversible when he abrogates the Paris accords. I fear that his hair-trigger temper will lead to devastating war, perhaps nuclear in nature. I fear that his Supreme Court appointments will reverse the right of gays to marry, of women to obtain abortions, and will otherwise impinge on our civil liberties. And I fear the forces of hate that his campaign has unleashed.
I am deeply concerned as well about the ability of the Democratic Party to mount an effective opposition to Mr. Trump. It has neglected developing an effective “farm team” at the local and state level, from which future leaders can arise. Two-thirds of our nation’s governors and state legislatures are Republican. Democrats are too dependent to win on charismatic leaders like Obama and Bill Clinton. This election, Democrats lost the support of working class white people—once our strong supporters. We need to learn from our mistakes. Some of these were operational in nature. I have worked on the last four presidential campaigns. From what I and several friends observed, Clinton’s ground game was considerably less well-organized than Obama’s and, to a lesser extent, than Kerry’s. Her campaign made a huge mistake in neglecting states like Wisconsin. Etc.
As for North Avenue Neighbors Association and The North Avenue District, the presidential election only strengthens our resolve to build community across the Chicago-Oak Park municipal border and to revitalize our stretch of North Avenue. We may face the loss of some federal programs that might fund our efforts, but we’re not getting support from any of these programs now (other than the anticipated corridor study—and those funds already have been allocated). We don’t need Trump to form closer ties, support the good businesses on North Avenue or recruit more such businesses. Thank heavens for that!
Andrea Button-Ott, Oak Park Village Trustee
I have felt my fair share of emotion about the results of this election.
But if I have learned anything in the last few years of my life (from personal, professional, and political experience), it is that emotions—when properly harnessed—propel one to take necessary action. And that clear-headed thoughts pave the way towards that action.
While we all need the necessary space and time to feel what we feel about November 8, 2016, I do not believe it is in anyone’s best interests to despair. I hope our community will seize this moment and double down on our ideals: diversity, unity, and building a strong and healthy community. Helping others. Respecting difference.
Perhaps that those of you who wonder if you should serve—if you have the time, energy, and resources—will embrace a newfound energy to serve. In any way possible, from the classroom to the boardroom. As a village trustee, I feel a sense of pride and honor serving this community.
As a woman, I feel sad. I realize now, more than ever, that our gender hasn’t come as far as we would have liked. I used to participate in a NOW book club in Oak Park. Median age was about 60. I was 28. We read entirely nonfiction written or inspired by women. I remember one of the members—once a feminist activist of the 60s—say how wonderful it was that we had come so far. That our daughters wouldn’t have to face the same worries and obstacles theirs did. And, to some extent, in the last year that was true and it deserved and deserves celebration. After all, we did nominate the first female U.S. presidential candidate this year.
But, at the same time, there is a chance that in about five months I will be the only woman on the Village Board. Some would say that shouldn’t matter. And to them I would say, “You’re right. It shouldn’t matter. But it does.”
Clearly, given the results of this election, it matters quite a bit. It matters to my daughter, who I want to grow up being inspired by strong women making a difference. It matters to every woman out there who wonders if she can balance all of the demands life throws her way with a call to service. To you, Oak Park women, I say: You can. Is it always easy? No. But it is always worth it.
As an American citizen, I feel fired up. I do not want to live or raise my children in a country that tolerates belittling, objectification, and hostility towards women (or anyone, for that matter). As women, we must keep fighting for our voices to be heard, for our bodies to be respected, and for our achievements to be equally commended. We must keep fighting in every way we can. Through volunteerism, public service, charitable contributions, writing to our legislators, or simply having a heart-to-heart with our families and children about these values. There is so much we can, and must, do.
As a mother of young children, I feel a strong sense of responsibility. When I am out and about with my six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son, we have this little call and response ritual. I say, “Kids, what’s Mommy’s number one job?” They respond, “To keep us safe!”
I take that job VERY seriously, and I define “safety” very broadly. Safe from harm, certainly, but also safety to be themselves, feel their feels, and live a life free of hostility and shame.
We all have a responsibility to pass down the best version of this world possible to the younger generations. It won’t be perfect. But if we keep striving and do not become complacent or jaded, hopefully they will not either. And then, ideally, we pass the baton and have faith.
So, feel all the feels. That is healthy and a sign of emotional maturity. But do not despair. Right now is the time for action.
Anthony Clark, Suburban Unity Alliance
Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy was boosted by fear-mongering and by pandering to the fringe racists, misogynists, and homophobes who supported his movement. While many Americans are newly fearful, let’s be clear: millions of Americans and their ancestors have lived in fear all their lives, having suffered under the systemic prejudices Trump has fortified. That is why Donald Trump’s slogan of ‘Make America Great Again,’ resonated with so many of his supporters. There are Americans who believe that this country hasn’t been great since the pre-civil-rights era of 1950s, when Blacks lived in segregation and overt inequality. The most extreme of those Americans long for a time when women were viewed as property, when their “place” was in the home. They want to restore an America where LGBTQ citizens did not have the right to marry. They want a return to a homogenous nation, void of Hispanics, Muslims, and any other minorities. But I, too, am an American, and there is no “Again,” for me. I can only focus on moving my community and my country forward. The country Trump desires isn’t a safe or tolerable place for Americans like me.
I am also an Oak Parker. I represent a diverse community that aims to be progressive. I believe that for Oak Park to truly realize that goal, we must accept that our work towards diversity, empathy, equity, and unity is an ongoing process. Our work must transcend marching and talking. Citizens must take actions that change policies. We must recognize that our challenges are not mutually exclusive; appreciating intersectionality is a key to our success. We must build empathy for each other’s burdens before positive collaboration and progress can be made. I can be a Black male who supports positive policing. I can be a heterosexual man who supports LGBTQ rights. I can be able-bodied and support the rights of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. I can be a Democrat, and still have constructive conversations with Republicans. We must be proactive, instead of waiting for an issue to directly impact us. There are fights for equality across the nation, and those struggles all pre-date Donald Trump’s quest for the nation’s highest office. We must use whatever fear or uneasiness we are feeling to motivate us. We must step up and eliminate the systemic challenges that existed long before 2016 and – unless we rise to meet them – will exist long after Donald Trump leaves the White House.
Oak Park Village Trustee Glenn Brewer
President Obama suggests we should give President-elect Trump a chance. But I think it is important that those of us who work for social justice must not give up and must work harder.
Gary Cuneen, Founder and Executive Director, Seven Generations Ahead
Like many have said in different ways – despite the utter disbelief that Trump has been elected and the disgust we feel over the reprehensible things he has said and done – we have no choice but to wait and see if the rhetoric of Trump the candidate changes as he becomes Trump the president. His lack of understanding of climate change and the potential impact he could have related to backing off US COP 21 climate commitments or repealing federal policies that promote emissions reductions is significant. Regardless, the work of renewable energy development and greenhouse gas emissions reductions is largely taking place at the local community and state levels in collaboration with the private sector, and we at Seven Generations Ahead with our colleagues will not let Trump or any president for that matter impede our work to drive on the ground projects and local/state policies that advance energy efficiency, job creation and a renewable energy economy. And if we have to get our boxing gloves out, we sure as hell will.
Oak Park Village Trustee Adam Salzman
The burden of elective office – even local elective office – feels much heavier now to me than it did before November 9.
I am deeply and profoundly disturbed by the election of Mr. Trump to the presidency, and feel impacted on a number of levels. As a Jewish American, I am stunned by the number of my fellow citizens who sanctioned a campaign that gave voice to open anti-Semitism.
I am also the son of a Latin American immigrant. When my father immigrated to the United States in the 1950s- the era that Mr. Trump holds up as a paragon of when America was ‘great’ – doors were literally slammed in his face as he attempted to rent an apartment, because he spoke Spanish.
Finally, I am the father of two daughters. I would give my own life in an instant to protect the integrity of their dreams and their bodies. It horrifies me that the president-elect of the United States boasts of violating women, objectifies them and belittles their worth and aspirations.
I cannot help but echo the words of Gold Star father, Khizr Khan and ask whether there is a place for me and my family in Mr. Trump’s America. More painfully, I have to wonder whether my fellow citizens who voted for this man believe there is a place for me in their America. It pains me to say that I am sure these thoughts will cross my mind the next time I visit Wisconsin and Michigan with my children.
But I will continue to visit these places. We may have had to concede an election, but we cannot concede the country to this rank ignorance and cruelty. That may be why the burden of public service feels heavier now- because it is heavier.
Those of us who have a voice and a platform and some tools – and in Oak Park, that is most of us – must make the extra effort to fight, and obstruct and oppose what this man and his supporters stand for.
For those who believe not just in progress, but in basic humanity – fighting is the only option.
Cathy Yen, Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce
I choose to believe that most voters genuinely came from a place of concern in this election, focusing on the priorities that resonate in their own daily lives. In this peculiar application of democracy, so many voted against a candidate, not for a candidate. When one side discounted or undermined that which was important to people, those people aligned with the other side, regardless of what unpleasant baggage that side carried. Now we are left with a good amount of baggage – but also the uncomfortable realization that half of our country prioritizes values that are different than the other half. Values that were so important to them that they looked the other way when confronted with huge issues in their respective candidate. The election was close enough that is true regardless of how one voted. So, now we begin the hard work of building a community, a country, a society in which the gains of one side are never built upon the neglect or oppression of the other side. Our combined success requires everyone to stay involved and participate in an ongoing dialogue focused on respect and hope for all Americans.
John Barrett, Gun Responsibility Advocates
Under the Trump administration it is going to be more difficult to pass comprehensive federal legislation to reduce gun violence. Federal legislation designed to ensure that everyone who buys a gun undergoes a background check will be difficult. This universal background check legislation – although supported by the majority of voters – is in grave peril.
We will need to renew our efforts at a state level to reduce the trafficking of illegal guns. Ninety percent of illegal gun were originally sold by only 10 percent of dealers. State legislation on licensing gun dealers is something on which we need to redouble our efforts.
We are also very hopeful that local legislative efforts on safe gun storage could be enacted.
Despite the election results, we cannot lose hope of still being able to reduce gun violence.
Colette Lueck, Oak Park Village Trustee and Co-chair Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association
Personally and as a female elected official I am heartbroken facing the potential loss of all that so many have spent their lives working for. The pain is deep and will take a long time to recede. Vigilance will be necessary. We will need to organize and raise our voices together when real threats emerge to our collective values and progressive policies. I also want to participant in and create opportunities for listening and learning from those who differ from me and step outside the comfort of Oak Park. But I will not apologize for being educated, informed or politically invested. Having and working for these benefits does not mean that I think less of those who don’t or feel that they have nothing to teach me.
OPALGA is concerned about any political outcome that threatens the progress made over the past decades – particularly marriage equality. OPALGA will vigorously work to assure that the rights of the LGBT community are not abridged. At the same time OPALGA understands that the whenever the rights of any minority are oppressed the rights of all minorities are at stake. Negative impacts are already being felt, particularly by children and youth who are increasingly fearful and anxious. They will need our support. As a group we understand there is still much work to be done, particularly outside communities like Oak Park, and will spend time considering how to most effectively undertake that work.