Kennedy receives endorsement from Arab American Democratic Club
Chris Kennedy received the formal endorsement of the prominent Arab American Democratic Club and the Illinois Arab American community at a fundraiser held in Worth Illinois on November 8. Kennedy said he would fight against racism and discrimination and work with Arab American and Muslim American leaders and community groups.
By Steve Metsch
Chris Kenndy, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in the race for governor, visited Worth on Nov. 8 and left with a key endorsement.
Kennedy was endorsed by the Arab American Democratic Club during a dinner meeting held at Saraya Restaurant, 7011 W. 111th St.
Kennedy, 54, who has lived in Illinois for 31 years, thanked the group for its endorsement, said there are some parallels to what Arabs face in the country when compared to his Irish ancestors.
“The Irish came here to dig ditches and build rail lines. It was generations before they played the leadership roles anyone around this table plays today,” Kennedy said. “The Irish arrived here and were treated a filthy, ignorant, stupid, unteachable, a threat to American society. And, even worse, a threat to American security.”
He recalled his grandmother, Rose Kennedy, telling him of signs that read NINA, No Irish Need Apply, outside businesses. As Arab Americans are doing, the Irish slowly became part of American society and the Democratic party “so it would be supportive of immigrants and workers.”
He talked of being a guest on WVON Radio, where the African American host asked if Kennedy was in favor of sanctuary cities, which Kennedy supports. The host then added that blacks are underemployed “because we are nice to immigrants.” The comment “is one of the most ignorant things I’ve ever heard,” Kennedy said.
“That anger that is present In Illinois, in Southern Illinois, in that disc jockey, that’s a threat to all of us. And it’s real. If we don’t solve that problem, they’re going to send us somebody worse than (President) Trump.”
The key for Illinois to succeed in the future, is stop relying on property taxes for public schools, he said.
“And it’s destroying our state because those kids will never know the freedom they should have in the land of the free. Why don’t we migrate to a system that will give us great results? We don’t do it because a handful of state legislators have outside jobs as property tax appeals lawyers.”
Those lawyers get a third of the property tax reduction their client realizes, he said, “and they’re willing to damn the next generation to a life of economic servitude. They’re willing to rob our economy of 75 percent of the kids coming in who could have been productive and never will be. I want to stop that. I want to make it impossible for them to be property tax appeals lawyers.”
Kennedy has worked around the state. He formerly worked for Archer Daniels Midland in Decatur, chaired the board of trustees at the University of Illinois, and formerly managed the Merchandise Mart in Chicago.
Club members said they like the fact that Kennedy offers a strong alternative to current Gov. Bruce Rauner. They also like the fact that Kennedy opposes immigration restrictions endorsed by President Donald Trump.
“As a community, we represent a significant number that can result in ta candidate winning or losing. You must get involved in the political process because it can change our daily lives, it can affect our future,” club chairman Samir Khalil told a crowd of about 100. Khalil helped found the club in 1983.
Also in attendance was Dean Koldenhoven, whom Kennedy called “a true American hero.”
Koldenhoven is the former mayor of Palos Heights who in 2000 famously fought for the rights of a Muslim group to open a mosque in a former church – eventually costing him his mayor’s job in the process.
Koldenhoven, who won a JFK Profiles in Courage award in 2002 from Caroline Kennedy for his taking that stance, spoke of the importance of freedom in our country. He fondly recalled meeting members of the Kennedy family in Boston when he received the award.
“it’s evident Illinois needs a governor. Chris Kennedy wants to serve the people of Illinois with being our governor,” he said.
Ken Getty, a former mayor of Lyons, said the state already has a governor “who throws money around like a drunken sailor” and doesn’t need a Democratic candidate, referring to JB Pritzker, who would do the same thing.
“Chris (Kennedy) knows what the voters need. The people need to be rise up and need to put a good person in the statehouse who knows the direction we want to take,” Getty said.
Journalist Ray Hanania offered amusing stories about growing up as an Arab American in Chicago.
“I’m a Palestinian. I’m an Arab. I’m a Christian who everybody thinks is a Muslim. I’m a comedian. I’m a journalist. And I’m married to a Jew. No wonder I’ve got no friends,” Hanania said to laughter before Kennedy took the spotlight.