I read in today's newspaper that Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL) is expected to announce today that he will retire from Congress after 30 years of service there. Aside from his congressional duties, Bobby is the ordained minister of Chicago's Beloved Community Christian Church of God in Christ. He wants to devote this new season in his life to his church and his ministry.
Bobby and I became acquainted during our service together in the House . It was hard for me to conceive that this soft-spoken, kindly, church pastor was, in the late 1960s, the co-founder of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party. He served as the Panthers' defense minister, and in that capacity he urged blacks to take "offensive violence" against the "power structure." (Growing up in San Francisco during this time, I remember the Oakland Black Panthers for their resistance to power—multiple shootouts with police.)
In 2000, Bobby and I talked occasionally about our respective tough reelection campaigns that year. I faced a Democrat challenger in California flogging me for my role in the Clinton impeachment; back in Chicago, Bobby faced a Democrat primary challenger—a legislator decrying Bobby as a relic of the past who was "unable to build bridges" with white officials and "get things done." Bobby and I exchanged reports on occasion about our respective races back home.
Ultimately, I lost my reelection that year, but Bobby prevailed over his upstart primary challenger—
—A young and ambitious Illinois state senator named Barack Obama.
Congratulations on your pending retirement, Bobby, and may God continue to bless you in your ministry.
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