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Living up to a famous name

Mayor Richard J. Daley follows his sCon-Ccandidate Richard M. Daley from polling place neighborhood fire stati35th Lowe Avenue November 18

Mayor Richard J. Daley follows his son, Con-Con candidate Richard M. Daley from the polling place, a neighborhood fire station at 35th and Lowe Avenue November 18, 1969. Chicago Sun-Times Library File photo by Jack Dykinga

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Updated: December 26, 2012 6:29AM



What’s in a name?

Plenty, if you live in Chicago. We are a dynastic political city where fathers to sons, dads to daughters, hand off, generation by generation, not just a name. But an expectation.

Mayor Richard J. Daley paved the way for Richard M. to follow. And for John to be a Cook County Commissioner. And Bill to work in the Cabinet and the White House.

Before Ed Burke was alderman of the 14th Ward, his father was.

House Speaker Michael Madigan carved a path for daughter Lisa to become a state senator, now attorney general.

When Cook County Board President John Stroger fell ill, who replaced him? His son Todd, whom he’d installed in the Illinois Legislature and then the Chicago City Council.

There are the Lipinskis. Bill, the alderman-turned-Congressman, engineered the appointment of Dan, the son, to take his seat.

Before the Lipinskis came the Rostenkowskis. Dad, the alderman, led the way for Dan to win chairmanship of the U.S. House’s Committee on Ways and Means.

But political legacies don’t come with a lifetime guarantee that good luck — or good judgment — will follow. Danny Rostenkowski learned that late in his storied career.

As did his successor in Congress.

Rod Blagojevich, who married the 33rd ward boss’ daughter, rose from Rostenkowski’s old seat to the governor’s mansion only to live in a Colorado correctional institution now.

Which takes us to the Jacksons.

This past week’s resignation of Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. illuminates both the rise and the fall of someone whose name is instantly recognizable.

As a teenager, Jesse Jr. lived in his father’s sizeable shadow.

Being the son of the Rev. Jesse Jackson opened many doors. But carried with it many burdens.

“They don’t see me,” Jesse Jr. said in a conversation we had in 2000. “I get emails and letters that should be addressed to my father that begin by saying ‘tell your Daddy’ . . . ”

Like his father, Jesse Jr. went to graduate school in theology.

Unlike his Dad, he also went to law school.

Like his father, who ran for president twice, Jesse Jr. also ran for federal office.

Unlike his father, he won.

But it was Congress. Not the White House.

And Barack Obama, a virtual nobody in American politics, sped by the younger Jackson to make the kind of history that the reverend’s kid had been expected to make.

Anne Roosevelt, whose career spans the public and private sector, knows a lot about carrying around a famous name as the granddaughter of Franklin and Eleanor.

By phone from her home in Maine, she said, “It is not a small thing of what others’ expectations are, to be either revered or reviled.”

“We had breakfast or lunch in Washington a few times,” she said. “I saw in Jesse a good person with a good brain and good intentions . . . but he had a lot of hoops to jump through to get approval . . . to gain the mantle of being a worthy successor . . . I felt like he was trying too hard.”

Now, it will only be harder.



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