By Mark Rosenberg

In 1948, a University of Chicago law student named Abner J. Mikva stopped at a Democratic committeeman’s office to volunteer to work for Adlai Stevenson and Paul Douglas. The response to his request to volunteer was, essentially, “We don’t want nobody that nobody sent.” Ab Mikva was not daunted, and that encounter was the beginning of a stellar political career.

After serving in the Illinois House of Representatives for 10 years, Ab Mikva served as U.S. Congressman in Hyde Park and then in our own Illinois 10th Congressional District. His career path changed when he was appointed to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1979. He left the bench in 1994 to become White House Counsel to President Bill Clinton.

In 1997, along with his wife, Zoe, Judge Mikva started a civic engagement program for Chicago youth called the Mikva Challenge (See www.mikvachallenge.org). This organization works with 5,000 young people each year to involve them in the democratic process. These youngsters work as election judges, and they volunteer with campaigns and with local grassroots organizations that work to improve schools and communities. “Of all the accomplishments in my professional life, what I am most proud of is helping found the Mikva Challenge,” Mikva has said.

Among those mentored by Ab Mikva over the years was a young lawyer named Barack Obama.

In December 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Judge Mikva the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

To honor Judge Mikva’s example, Tenth Dems presents an annual award in his name. Past recipients of the Ab Mikva Leadership Award include such luminaries as Loretta Durbin, former State Senator Susan Garrett, State Senator Melinda Bush, State Senator Daniel Biss, and former 10th District Congressman Brad Schneider.

Join us! Help elect Democrats in our area:

The Tenth Dems blog is intended to be a forum that builds community and provides for respectful and healthy exchange of ideas. We are open to different points of view and hope that all of our readers will feel comfortable engaging in conversation. Opinions expressed on this website belong to their respective authors, and publication does not necessarily imply endorsement by the Tenth Congressional District Democrats. Inappropriate comments may be deleted.