Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Political Mentor: Harold Washington

BOND: So you're part of the Washington sweep.

RUSH: I was elected with Harold, right, in 1983.

BOND: And does the association with Washington and his previous service in the Congress, and he was an alderman, too, wasn't he?

RUSH: No, he was just a member of the legislature.

BOND: I wonder to what degree, if he ever said, "Let me tell you how you can do this" or "Let me tell you how you can do that." Did he serve in that relationship with you?

RUSH: Yeah, Harold was a like a mentor in a lot of ways. I guess probably one of the most practical pieces of advice that Harold gave me was, "Give people your card." Because I found a lot of people who're going to ask you for things, so give them your card, and that'll put the onus on them to get in contact with you, rather than you having to try to get in contact with them. So that was — you know, he was a consummate politician, but a lot of times Harold, being more mature, being an older person, and being the consummate politician, he would get us — point us in the direction, and then there were some of us who had come up out of the civil rights movement who understood organizing, and we would go out and he would give us the charge. We would go out and then sometimes he would kind of think that we went overboard, you know. But Harold — again, his people skills were extraordinary. And I remember right before he died, one of the things that I won't ever forget is that they had a surprise birthday party for me in the chamber of the City Council and how they did it, they used Harold in order for it to happen. He called me at home — "I want to see you," you know, just like that. And I said, "Wow, what did I do, what does Harold want to see me about, did I mess up?" I was really sweating, popping off my forehead and everything. I didn't know what it was, so I went up to the office. I think it was about eleven o'clock and he kept me waiting out for a while and then he called me into the office and we had some small talk and then he said, "Well, I'll call you back. Go on down to the City Council. I'll call you back," and I went down there and all of a sudden there was this big birthday — surprise birthday party. That's the kind of people person that he was, and to have the Mayor of the City of Chicago, Harold Washington, being a part of the conspiracy to have you a surprise birthday party. I mean, it just don't get no better than that.