A coalition of progressive groups and leaders gathered in Chicago on Tuesday with an urgent message for President Barack Obama: Hurry up.
A few hundred yards from where Obama delivered his acceptance speech in Grant Park last November, Chicago leaders and group representatives marked the one-year anniversary of his election. Speakers at the noon rally at Spertus Institute urged the president to take immediate action.
“Change is coming. Change has been coming. We just have to make change happen faster – much faster,” said Juan Salgado, board president of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.
While each speaker carefully avoided overt criticism or expressions of disappointment with the president and his administration, they called for swifter changes.
“We must continue to challenge ourselves and the Obama administration to aggressively move forward, to dig in, to dig deeper,” said Jane Ramsey of the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, who said that the rally was about celebrating the change marked by Obama’s election.
But it’s that change, Salgado said, that needs to be “a vehicle that moves quickly.”
Salgado was joined on stage by leaders of several of the 38 organizations supporting the rally. In a dramatic bit of staging, they and others signed an oversized letter to the president urging action on seven bulleted issues, including immigration reform, workers’ right to organize, unemployment wages, LGBT community rights, financial reform and global warming.
As if that list weren’t long enough, it was capped off with one more issue for the presidential plate: “creating a more peaceful world.”
These issues, said Maria Pesqueira, board member of Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and head of Mujeres Latinas en Acción (Latin Women in Action), were the issues that brought together the groups that helped elect Obama. And it’s those issues that need to be woven together to make a strong America, she said.
Pesqueira said that the rally was about reminding Obama and his administration to have courage.
“We are here to encourage that courage,” she said.
On the issue of immigration reform, she said, there’s no reform right now. “There’s only enforcement,” she said.
Ultimately, she said she wants to see reform that considers the needs of families.
“Raids and enforcement are not a solution,” she said.
And four years from now?
“At that point we’d be looking at strengthening our nation as opposed to stabilizing it,” she said. “At this point so much is about stability.”
The Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, who received three standing ovations at the rally, spoke of the “joy of the moment” and the “joy of the journey,” and reminded the crowd to keep fighting.