No Longer Lonely
Despres' tenure on the Chicago City Council coincided with all but the final year of the first Daley's reign. His championing of civil rights, intolerance for corruption, and clever use of parliamentary procedure proved that all principled causes are not lost, even if one winds up on the short end of a 49-1 council vote rubber stamping "The Boss."
I came to know Len Despres briefly through my work on the Bughouse Square Debates committee. He was part of the original crowd that coalesced to revive what is now an annual celebration of Chicago's free speech tradition at Washington Square Park. Len attended one of our meetings last summer and proved as articulate and passionate as ever.
Where he was once a lone voice in the wilderness, he lived long enough to see many of his causes become decidedly mainstream. His life story, recounted powerfully in a 2005 biography he co-authored, Challenging the Daley Machine, proves the significance of speaking truth to power, even when faced with great odds. Despres record reflects the transformative nature of dissent powered by the First Amendment.