Kapos: Trump’s ‘America first’ theme has strong ties to Chicago

SHARE Kapos: Trump’s ‘America first’ theme has strong ties to Chicago

Chicago restaurateur Keene Addington is a great-grandson of Robert E. Wood, who led the American First Committee. | Shia Kapos/Sun-Times

You can connect the dots of Donald Trump’s “America first” theme back to Chicago.

The president used the phrase during his inaugural address. But it dates back to 1940 when the America First Committee was created to oppose efforts to fight the Nazis in World War II.

That group was led by wealthy business leaders, including Robert E. Wood, a retired U.S. Army general who became president (and later chairman) of Sears. Allstate Insurance was started under the Sears brand during his watch.

Interestingly, Wood is the great-grandfather of Chicago restaurateur Keene Addington and his cousin, Sarah Emanuel, wife of Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel (whose brother is Mayor Rahm Emanuel).

Addington recalls long conversations with his great-grandfather while fishing in a rowboat on a small lake in Wisconsin.

“He talked a lot about Chicago and giving back, but we didn’t hear about the America First Committee,” Addington says. “We were raised, starting with my great-grandfather, to give back to the community and to participate. He talked a lot about Ravinia, the Lyric Opera and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”

Addington spoke about his grandfather during an interview in the shadow of a photograph of Grandfather Wood in the Red room of the Tortoise Supper Club.

Addington is a former trader who went on to found the popular FlatTop Grill restaurants before selling the chain in 2009. He founded Tortoise club in 2012 and runs the restaurant with his wife, Megan Addington.

The America First Committee was part of Chicago’s civic scene back in 1940. Other members supporting isolationism included famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, who was the group’s impassioned spokesman; animation guru Walt Disney; Chicago Tribune publisher Robert McCormick; and Sargent Shriver, whose wife was a sister to President John F. Kennedy.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the group flipped its view and went all in to support the war. Over the years, it’s been criticized for its anti-intervention views and not standing up sooner to fight Nazi Germany.

Even the who’s who protested Trump

J.B. Pritzker protested Saturday at O’Hare Airport. | Supplied photo

J.B. Pritzker protested Saturday at O’Hare Airport. | Supplied photo

Yes, that was J.B. Pritzker, the billionaire entrepreneur, protesting President Donald Trump‘s executive order to ban immigrants at O’Hare International Airport over the weekend.

His sign read, “No Hate! No Fear! Immigrants are welcome here!”

Friend and adviser Dave Lundy says he and Pritzker were texting back and forth Saturday about their concerns that green card holders were being detained “and how our grandparents and great-grandparents would have been turned away.” Within minutes, added Lundy, they decided to go join the protest at Terminal 5.

The issue is especially important to Pritzker, whose grandfather, Nicholas, immigrated to this country to escape Russian pogroms. His family’s history was pivotal in him leading the effort to build the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

Lifeway Foods CEO Julie Smolyansky also protested at O’Hare over the weekend. She carried a sign that read “In 1976, I was a Soviet Refugee Jew. Today I’m a CEO.”

For many other civic and business leaders, the discussion and debate spilled out on their social media pages.

Susan Crown, founder of the eponymous social investment firm and member of the wealthy and philanthropic Crown family, embraced the Statue of Liberty on her Facebook page. She posted the famous poem that has long represented American immigration: “Give me your tired, your poor / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Jason Erkes, a civic leader and former president of Chicago Sport & Social Club, rallied at O’Hare and led a stream of Facebook users to post their families’ immigration stories. Erkes featured a graying copy of his grandfather’s certificate of citizenship.

And Alpana Singh, owner of The Boarding House in River North and Seven Lions on Michigan Avenue, shared a list of Republicans in Congress who took no position on Trump’s refugee ban.

Kavi Gupta stars at Halcyon party

Gallery owner Kavi Gupta was honored by the Halcyon Theatre. | Provided photo

Gallery owner Kavi Gupta was honored by the Halcyon Theatre. | Provided photo

Halcyon Theatre honored Kavi Gupta, the gallery owner who represents diverse artists around the globe.

It’s a nice fit as the North Side theater lists “diversity” is its core value and bringing “inadequately represented” voices to the stage its main mission.

Gupta was among three honorees to receive the theater company’s Iris Award.

“I’m proud to present this award to Kavi, whom I also consider a friend,” Denise Hoeflich told the crowd gathered at Savage Smyth. She’s an ensemble member and board chair of Halcyon.

Hoeflich and Gupta have much in common. She’s a former litigator with a passion for the theater. He’s a former investment banker who pivoted to pursue his passion for art.

Hoeflich co-chaired the Jan. 27 fundraiser, which raised more some $98,000.

Also honored: Chef Michael Kornick and his wife, Lisa Kornick, and Meghan Beals, artistic director of the nonprofit Chicago Dramatists.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.

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