to Honor Larry Cohen and Adriana Alvarez
Keynote by Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa
by Bob Roman
The 2017 Eugene V. Debs – Norman Thomas – Michael Harrington Dinner will be held Friday, May 19, at the Crowne Plaza Chicago West Loop, Madison & Halsted, on Chicago’s near west side. This will be the 59th annual dinner. We have a great evening lined up, and you are invited to attend!
For those of you new to the movement, the Dinner is something of a Chicago institution that predates DSA. It began in 1958 under the auspices of the newly merged Socialist Party – Social Democratic Federation (SP-SDF) as Chicago’s Debs Day Dinner, much as Republicans had (and often still have) Lincoln dinners and Democrats likewise Jefferson – Jackson dinners. It quickly gained some success as a platform for notable speakers such as Sid Lens, Bayard Rustin, Chicago’s Leon Despres, James Farmer, Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington. After Norman Thomas died, the event became the Norman Thomas – Eugene V. Debs Dinner. In 1971, it became an awards dinner as well as a speaker’s platform. The SP-SDF fell apart and the event was taken over by Michael Harrington’s
Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. When they merged with the New American
Movement, it was taken over by the resulting Democratic Socialists of America. You can find more the history at chicagodsa.org/dthdin.html.
That was then. The theme for this year’s Dinner is, A Way Forward! There’s no doubt that most of what is decent about our country is in peril. But Trump’s failure to win the popular vote is a clear indication we can go beyond resistance, beyond stalemate to where democracy is victorious and we are on the path to social and economic justice. Our honorees, each in their own way, have made significant contributions to this fight for equality.
Larry Cohen may be familiar to you as being the recently “retired” President of the Communication Workers of America. CWA members have been willing to confront some truly gargantuan corporations, but Cohen’s contributions have not stopped there. He correctly judged the mood of insurgency in our country and was a leader in Labor for Bernie and he’s continued that struggle as Board Chair of Our Revolution. Cohen is the Chair of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of national organizations confronting the corruption of our democracy by corporate money. And he’s a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future. He’s also been serving as a rabble-rouser about town, grabbing the bullhorn by the mic in protest of the latest Trumpian outrage.
Adriana Alvarez may be less familiar to you. She is a rank-and-file leader in Fight for 15, a worker at McDonald’s who has been willing to be arrested in support of her fellow workers, opens her home for meetings and, in between raising a son, does what needs to be done in the grand left tradition of a “Janie Higgins”. Alvarez also serves as one of the public faces of the campaign for a $15 / hour minimum wage (and a union), representing that movement on the web, across the nation, and in countries as various as Canada, Brazil and the Vatican. In honoring Alvarez, we are also honoring a movement that, while in the process of exploring alternative organizing strategies, has already made a huge difference in the lives of those at the bottom of our economy.
Our featured speaker is Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa from Chicago’s 35th Ward. Rosa is one of Chicago’s crop of outstanding new leaders in the City Council. Rosa has confronted the problem of governing head on. He has not complacently waited for a movement to begin in his ward around election time. He has taken leadership in making one happen.
Please join us in honoring these two outstanding activists for they deserve your recognition as well as ours. I hope to see you there on Friday evening, May 19.
If you cannot attend or if money for politics is scarce, please consider getting a greeting or an ad in the Dinner Program Book. This is the truly cost-effective way of participating while publicly recognizing the work our honorees have done on behalf of the movement.