Obama Designates Monument in Chicago and Backs Its Mayor, Rahm Emanuel

CHICAGO — President Obama
on Thursday offered a hearty
White House embrace to his
friend and former chief of
staff, Rahm Emanuel, who is
running for re-election as
mayor here and faces voters
next week.
“Before Rahm was a big-shot
mayor, he was an essential
part of my team,” Mr. Obama
told a crowd of students and
teachers at Gwendolyn
Brooks College Preparatory
Academy, with the mayor
sitting nearby. “I could not be
prouder of him and the
extraordinary service that
he’s provided.”
Officially, Mr. Obama
traveled to Chicago to
designate the city’s Pullman
area a national monument.
The company town built by
the founder of the Pullman
Company railroad empire
was one of the nation’s first
planned industrial
communities and is
considered a historic location
threatened by economic
blight and neglect.
The designation will help
preserve the factories and
other buildings on the 203-
acre site, where many
African-Americans lived
while working as porters,
waiters and maids on the
railroad’s luxury cars, and
helped begin a labor and civil
rights movement.
But Mr. Obama’s action is
also a potential boon to the
election efforts of Mr.
Emanuel, who is eager to
bolster his support among
the city’s black voters so that
he can capture more than 50
percent of the vote and avoid
a runoff. The mayor, like
other politicians and
community leaders in
Chicago, had fought for years
on behalf of the Pullman
“Today, we take another
giant step forward in
Pullman’s promise,” Mr.
Emanuel said as he
introduced the president at
the event. “Pullman will now
belong not to all of Chicago,
but to all of America.”
He quickly added, “Please
welcome my friend, Chicago’s
favorite son, the president of
the United States, Barack
Mr. Emanuel was already an
established politician, having
served three terms in
Congress and as a staff
member in the Clinton White
House, before Mr. Obama
picked him in late 2008 to
manage his White House.
But his time as chief of staff
in the first years of Mr.
Obama’s presidency fused
their political futures. Mr.
Obama has already made a
radio ad on Mr. Emanuel’s
behalf, lending the power of
the presidency to the mayor’s
political fortunes.
“I relied on his judgment
every day and his smarts
every day and his toughness
every day,” Mr. Obama said
Thursday, using the Pullman
event to underscore his
support for his friend’s
For his part, Mr. Emanuel has
become one of the biggest
proponents of bringing Mr.
Obama’s presidential library
to Chicago, which the
president calls home. Last
month, members of the
Barack Obama Foundation,
which is overseeing
development of the library,
indicated their displeasure
with the Chicago bid , raising
questions about the city’s
commitment and about Mr.
Emanuel’s clout in his own
At the time, the mayor vowed
that the library “belongs in
After his remarks on
Thursday, Mr. Obama sat
down at a table on the stage
here to sign the proclamation
creating the Pullman
National Monument. Mr.
Emanuel stood directly over
Mr. Obama’s left shoulder —
a perfect position for the
many cameras.
In addition to creating a
national monument at the
Pullman site, Mr. Obama
announced two other
national monuments: the
Honouliuli National
Monument in Hawaii and the
Browns Canyon National
Monument in Colorado.
He also introduced a new
program to allow fourth
graders and their families to
visit national parks free of
But it was the Pullman
monument that Mr. Obama
focused on during Thursday’s
event. He described the
history of the Pullman years,
when African-Americans
went on strike and eventually
formed the first African-
American union to receive an
American Federation of
Labor charter.
“These men and women,
without rank, without wealth
or title, became the bedrock
of a new middle class,” Mr.
Obama said, noting that
Michelle Obama’s great-
grandfather was a Pullman
“Part of what we are
preserving here is also
history,” Mr. Obama said.
“It’s understanding that
places that look ordinary are
nothing but extraordinary.”