Global Chicago


In International House’s flag-lined Assembly Hall, four authors of the new book Global Chicago (University of Illinois Press) spoke Monday about the city’s evolution from a swamp to a worldly metropolis.

Richard C. Longworth, executive director of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Chicago Center, discussed Chicago under the 1950s–70s reign of former Mayor Richard J. Daley. It was a time, he said, when mobsters carried machine guns in violin cases and the Democratic Machine was a paternalistic force, providing new immigrants jobs in return for votes.

Chicago’s global character, continued Chicago Tribune urban correspondent Ron Grossman, is much older than Daley’s time. Considered the Wild West even after the Industrial Revolution, the city was advertised throughout poor parts of Europe as a place where anyone willing to work could make a living, Grossman said: “Chicago imported human beings like some countries imported raw materials.”

William Testa, vice president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, attributed the region’s worldwide influence to the railroads, constructed in 1848. And immigration’s rise the last 20 years, he said, is evidence of Chicago’s continuing international legacy. The 2000 census reported that in 51 percent of Chicago’s non–African American households, English is the second language. An Italian restaurateur, Grossman recalled, said recently, “These days you can’t run an Italian restaurant without Mexicans in the kitchen cooking.”

Far from the days of political machines, the current Mayor Richard M. Daley’s biggest brag, Longworth noted, is that “he’s planted more trees than any other mayor.” Daley’s beautification efforts, demonstrated in projects like Millennium Park and flower baskets lining Lake Shore Drive, are not frivolous, Testa added. They represent Daley’s continued efforts to maintain international acclaim. Chicago, he argued, must be attractive to intellectuals and entrepreneurs to remain competitive in the global economy.

Many corporate headquarters have left Chicago in the past decade, Chicago sociology professor Saskia Sassen reminded the audience. The global role, she said, is one Chicago cannot take for granted.

The panel, part of the Center for International Studies’ World Beyond the Headlines program, was the second such event this quarter.

Meredith Meyer, ’07

October 27, 2004