It's been a good day so I want to share some things with you. I was born in Chicago. I was the only goy kid in A Jewish neighborhood until second grade when we moved in with my mother's parents. My mom cleaned house, cooked and babysat for many of our neighbors. Eastern European/Jewish food is still soul food for me. My grandfather's house was a big step from the apartment. He and grandma were Lithuanian peasant immigrants. He was illiterate in both Lithuanian and English, but grandma could read the Lithuanian newspaper. Grandpa worked in the Chicago stockyards like the people Upton Sinclair wrote about in The Jungle. He lived to 55 though. Many of them never saw fourty. So here I am a semi-retired university professor and a Democratic Socialist writing about myself on my birthday. If you are not yet bored to death, let me tell you more about how I came to be an ardent Obama supporter here in rural Virginia. UPDATE: You people are beautiful! Thanks all!!!!!
I was the first of all my extended family on either side to go to college. I did that in a rather interesting way. My dad bought his first house when I was in second year high school. We moved to a working class suburb alongside Cicero. (Remember Al Capone?) I was smart so I was in the pre college track in high school. One day, as a junior, I remember other kids comparing scholarships to college. My dad had always wanted me to go to the Illinois Institute of Terchnology (IIT). I asked the other students how they got the scholarships. They kind of laughed and said that the guidance counsellors had helped them. I had never seen a guidance counsellor. I marched over to the one I was under and asked how I could get a scholarship because I wanted to go to college. She snickered and said it was way too late to apply. Only later did I figure out that kids from my neighborhood were not college bound no matter how smart they were. I was one of two or three of the many, many people who hung around the school yard who were to go. The guidance counsellor fixed me up really well. She told me I still had a chance. Then she told me about the NROTC regular scholarship program and I applied and went to IIT. See, this is a great country! Even us working class punks could get educated simply by being willing to become possible cannon fodder. Sorry Pat Buchanan if I sound less grateful than I should. As a result I served as a regular officer in the USMC and got my BS. Thanks to Sputnik, there was lots of money to do graduate school after I got out so I got my Ph. D. in Physiology at the University of Chicago and did postdoctoral training in Biophysics at the Weizmann Institute for Science in Israel. I wanted to be a doctor, but medical school was out of the question for someone with my background and financial status at that time. I spent my life teaching doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc. and doing biomedical research. Not a bad deal actually!
I was in Israel when JFK was assasinated and when the Gulf of Tonkin fiasco was used to attack Vietnam. I came home from the cushy postdoc and got a job in Biophysics at SUNY at Buffalo, NY. After a year or so I was acting department chairman, a leader in the anti-war/civil rights movement in Buffalo, and faculty advisor for SDS. Then came the New Politics Convention, Buffalo's contingent the first white group to support Black Power, the anti-draft movement and more.
When Michael Harrington founded the Democratic Socialists of America I became a charter member. They were to the right of a lot of what I was exposed to at that time, but he made it all make sense to me. I still think the DSA program for America is the best I know about.
I was turned off by electoral politics until this guy, Senator Obama, came on the scene. Dean stirred me up in 2004 as well. There is something about this guy from Chicago who also likes to write about how he got to this point that makes me very glad I lived this long. So I am celebrating today and I hope you are with me brothers and sisters!