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In John's words

Saturday, January 19, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

In late February 2006, John Stroger sat down with Chicago Sun-Times reporter Steve Patterson for what would be one of Stroger's final interviews. Below are excerpts from that interview.

WHAT HE WANTED TO DO IN RETIREMENT:

"Mentor young people. Just mentoring and just being available to talk with them and exchange views with them, positive counseling for young African-American men."

WHAT HE LOVED ABOUT HIS JOB:

"We're a government of last resort. We take care of those people who can't take care of themselves. That's our challenge, but that's what I enjoy doing, and I enjoy working very hard at it."

WHY HE PUSHED FOR COUNTY BOARD DISTRICTS:

"The old guys said, 'Ah kid, you're bringing these new ideas in.' But we kept pushing it. That has really changed the dynamics of the County Board. Now some of those old guys who are still alive ask me do I regret that, but I don't."

ON LOYALTY:

"Other precinct captains elected me, with the blessing of Mayor [Richard J.] Daley, to be [8th Ward] committeeman, and that was really the start. Two years later, I was running for a position on the County Board with the blessing of the Democratic Party. So when I say I believe in the Democratic Party, it's because all those guys believed in me and I got some opportunities because of it. ... I work with a lot of people who transcend race. If a person has worked for our community, whether he's black or white, I should work for him. And that's what I've tried to do."

HOW THE FACE OF COUNTY GOVERNMENT HAS CHANGED:

"I've tried to broaden the base for participation of both minorities and women. When I first came into this government, there was no minorities in top leadership -- appointed-wise, elected-wise -- and there was very few women."

WHAT HE CONSIDERS HIS LEGACY:

"I am very proud of the fact I was able to be an engineer -- a social and political engineer -- in the building of the County Hospital and the building of the CORE Center. We don't talk about it much, but I was out front by myself for many years to try to acquire Provident Hospital from the federal government for the benefit of the people of this county."

HIS PERSONAL LIFE:

"I love being with my grandkids. They get excited when I come around. They jump all over me, especially Hans, he's all over my leg. He's having a birthday right now. Pa-Pa's got to go and have cake with him. I was just telling him, 'We'd like to take you down to Florida.' He said, 'I don't want to go nowhere where there's no snow.' "



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