As 2002 came to a close, I was getting ready to go on Christmas break and start a new year at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. The hot issue of the day was the impending war with Iraq. Everyone knew it was coming, but no one knew when. UN weapons inspectors had been combing Iraq for several weeks, with no results. That December, a group of protestors would meet at Old Main on Lincoln Avenue to lend their voices to peace.
Having followed events in Iraq for quite some time, I was skeptical of the threat it posed or the utility of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Despite Bush Administration horror stories about weapons of mass destruction, I always suspected something worse might replace Saddam, and that starting another war in the Middle East wouldn’t help stamp out Islamic extremism. In 2002, however, the antiwar crowd seemed to be in the minority. A January 2003 CBS poll found 64% of Americans approved of military action against Iraq after all diplomatic options had been exhausted.
On the sixty-first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 2002, a number of small campus groups, including the Green Party, junior art major Ryan McClure, and Newman Center director Roy Lanham, organized an antiwar protest to coincide with similar marches around the country. I showed up with my video camera to document the event and interview the participants.
When I returned to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois for the fall 2002 semester, the potential invasion of Iraq was heating up. The looming war dominated news coverage, and we all believed this could be our generation’s Vietnam. Protests were held across the country, as well as on the campus of our small Midwestern university.
The 2002 midterm elections presented me with my first real opportunity to participate in politics. I was 20 years old and had never voted before. As a member of the campus Green Party, I had a front row seat for Carl Estabrook’s campaign for 15th Congressional District. I’d always considered myself more libertarian, but I was young and eager to get involved, and most of my close friends were on the left.
It was an uphill battle. Illinois’ 15th Congressional District consisted of east central Illinois, including Champaign-Urbana, Danville, Mattoon, and Charleston, and a narrow strip running south along the border with Indiana (the 15th has since been redistricted). Aside from the liberal outpost of Champaign-Urbana (home to the University of Illinois), this was deeply Republican territory. The incumbent, Timothy V. Johnson, won in 2000 with 53.2% of the vote (he would be re-elected five times).
During the 2000 presidential election, student groups around the country cropped up to support Green Party nominee Ralph Nader, a consumer and environmental activist. Nader ended up receiving 2.88 million votes, or just 2.74 percent of the popular vote. Never-the-less, many Democrats considered Nader a spoiler who cost Democratic candidate Al Gore the election. In retrospect, his impact on that race was probably overstated.
When I entered Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois in the fall of 2000, the Bush vs. Gore campaign was in full swing. I was idealistic, ready for change, and thought I knew everything. In other words, a typical college freshman. In late October, a friend convinced me to attend a meeting of the campus Green Party. Though I was more libertarian-leaning, curiosity and a desire to “get involved” led me to the former English lounge on the second floor of Coleman Hall (meetings were later moved to the Student Union).
Joining the Green Party at EIU turned out to be a fruitful decision, as I made several lasting friends and gained valuable experience. My first post-election political act was to write a five-page letter detailing what I believed to be the problems facing the country to newly elected President George W. Bush. I received a generic letter and a photo of him and Laura in reply.
Anderson Japanese Gardens, at 318 Spring Creek Road in Rockford, Illinois, is a unique destination in Northern Illinois. Rockford businessman John R. Anderson built the garden in 1978 with the help of landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu, Landscape Director for the Garden Society of Japan. It is now run by a nonprofit organization and staffed by many volunteers. The garden features winding paths, a tea house, ponds, Japanese sculptures, and several plants native to Japan. It’s a beautiful place for an afternoon stroll!
Established in 1860 by Thomas Bryan, Graceland Cemetery, at 4001 N. Clark Street in Chicago, Illinois, is the city’s premier burial ground. Approximately 45,000 people are interred in these 121 acres, including many of Chicago’s most prominent former citizens, including Cyrus McCormick, George Pullman, John Altgeld, and Allan Pinkerton.
This lovely neoclassical bronze monument is dedicated to department store mogul Marshall Field (1834-1906). Field rose from farmer’s son to wealthiest man in Chicago when he got into the merchandising business and eventually established Marshall Field and Company. Marshall Field and John D. Rockefeller founded the University of Chicago in 1890. The statue of a sitting woman holding oak leaves (symbolizing courage), called “Memory”, was designed by architect Henry Bacon and sculptor Daniel Chester French.
This Granite knight, designed by Lorado Taft and called “Crusader”, commemorates Victor Fremont Lawson (1850-1920), Norwegian-American publisher of the Chicago Daily News. Lawson ran the Daily News for 29 years. His monument is unmarked, except for the epitaph: “Above al things truth beareth away the victory.”