Chicago Tribune I Section 1 I Tuesday, August 9, 2016 3
He may have started out as the original
“nobody nobody sent,” but Abner Mikva
was sent off in grand style Monday at a
memorial service where he was feted by a
crowd of political heavyweights· including
a Supreme Court justice and the
president of the United States.
Elena Kagan and Barack Obama were
two of the big shots who told a packed
crowd at the Spertus Institute’s Feinberg
Theater that he helped send them on
their way in public life.
And Supreme Court nominee Merrick
Garland was one of several speakers so
moved by the memory ofMikva’s legendary
kindness and decency that he choked
up on stage.
The event came a month after Mikva –
a beloved former congressman, federal
appellate court judge and White House
counsel – died at the age of 90.
Best-known for his Chicago story of
being turned away as an idealistic young
man from volunteering at the 8th Ward
office of the Democratic Party in 1948 by
a stogie-wielding committeeman who
informed him “we don’t want nobody
nobody sent,” he was fondly remembered
Monday for his wisdom, generosity and
disarming wit.
”He was a real mensch;’ said Garland,
who volunteered for a Mikva congressional
race in the 1970s and later followed
him in becoming chief judge of the
federal appellate circuit in Washington.
Garland recalled with embarrassment
how, instructed by Mikva to drive advice
Abner Mlkva, a former federal Judge and
U.S. representative, was honored at a
memorial service Monday.
columnist Margo Howard – the daughter
of Ann Landers – from downtown to
a campaign event in Skokie, he had “got
lost” and “run out of gas” after leaving the
A/C running in his dad’s Chevy.
“By the time we arrived, the event was
over:’ said Garland, who added that he
feared being fired. Instead, with “a big
smile;• Mikva “put his arm around my
shoulders and said, ‘Next time, start
earlier and be sure you have a full tank of
gas.’ ,,
Garland teared up as he recalled when
Mikva came to Garland’s father’s wake in
2000 and held Garland’s mother’s hand
“for almost half an hour.”
“She never forgot that kindness:’ he
said. ‘½nd nor did I.”
In a lighter moment, former presidential
adviser David Axelrod recalled
when Mikva was informed of the death of
former Illinois Secretary of State Paul
Powell and asked whether he was
surprised that Powell had been found
with $800,000 in cash in shoeboxes in his
hotel room. Mikva shot back, “Only that
the amount was so small.”
All three of Mikva’s daughters and
sons-in-law and seven of his grandchildren
also spoke, recalling how he
delighted in provoking political and
religious talk at the table.
“I wanted to tell you that my father
maintained to the very end that Monica
Lewinsky seduced Bill Clinton;• the
middle daughter, Laurie, said of Mikva
who served in the Clinton administration.
”But I have been instructed to talk
about him as a dad and a husband!”
Perhaps the loudest applause of the
day was for Christopher Butler, one of
thousands of youths encouraged to become
community leaders through the
Mikva Challenge, the civic leadership
program founded by Mikva and his
”Life really is a lot easier when
somebody does send you;’ Butler said of
the boost Mikva gave him. ‘We can all be
somebody the Abner Mikva sent”
That was a sentiment echoed by
Obama, who sent a video message in
which he thanked “my dear friend”
Mikva for mentoring him.
‘½.b wasn’t content simply to leave his
own mark, which was extraordinary; he
wanted to help others leave theirs, as
well:’ Obama said. “That’s why he
inspired so many young people, including
me, to pursue public service.”
Kagan, who was a law clerk for Mikva
may owe him even more. Making an
apparent reference to the speech given by
the father of fallen Muslim Army officer
Humayun Khan, she said that until
recently, Mikva was the only person she
knew who carried a copy of the Constitution
in his pocket.
In the White House, Kagan said,
Mikva was known to “brandish” the
Constitution at staff, and ask them, ”Do
you know what the Constitution says? It
says the president can do this:’ or, on
other occasions, “It says the president
cannot do this.”
Along with slices of cheesecake,
mourners at a reception after the memorial
were handed pocket-size Constitutions
as keepsakes and guides.
– Kim Janssen