Sean Casten, 6th Congressional District Democratic nominee profile

He wants the federal government to help keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic and make “a massive investment” in infrastructure.

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Sean Casten, 6th Congressional District Democratic nominee and incumbent, 2020 election

Sean Casten, 6th Congressional District Democratic nominee and incumbent.

Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Candidate profile

Sean Casten

Running for: IL-06

Political party affiliation: Democrat

Political/civic background: Current IL-06 Representative

Occupation: Current IL-06 Representative

Education: Sean earned a B.A. in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Middlebury College. In 1998, he earned a Masters of Engineering Management and a M.S. in Biochemical Engineering from the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth. His M.S. thesis was focused on the development of technologies to produce fuel-grade ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks and the techno-economic evaluation of various alternative ethanol, heat, and power generation technologies.

Campaign website:

Facebook: CastenforCongress

Twitter: @votecasten


The Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board sent nominees for the U.S. House of Representatives a list of questions to find out their views on a range of important issues facing their districts, the state of Illinois and the country. Sean Casten submitted the following responses:

Are you satisfied with the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? Why or why not? What grade would you give President Donald Trump for his handling of the pandemic, and why?

If you grade Donald Trump on a curve, he still gets an F. We have 4% of the world’s population and almost 25% of the world’s deaths. Even in the absence of vaccines and therapeutics, there are other countries in Europe, Asia, and North America that have contained the spread of the virus through an intentional and nationally-led program of testing, tracing, and quarantine. We don’t lack technology. We don’t lack access to resources. We simply lack national leadership.

Had the Global Health Security and Biodefense unit created under President Obama remained intact, we may have been able to contain the virus before it reached American soil. But instead, Donald Trump disbanded the unit and threw out the pandemic playbook it created. Had broad social distancing measures been in place just one week earlier then they were, researchers say that 36,000 lives could have been saved. But instead, Donald Trump twiddled his thumbs and just said “it will go away.” Had the President encouraged the wearing rather than the politicization of masks, 20% of COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided. Had the President elevated the voices of scientists and public health officials rather than using them as props while he encouraged Americans to take unproven drugs and inject themselves with disinfectant, many of our friends and loved ones could still be alive today. Had the President used the full power of the Defense Production Act to mass-produce PPE, ventilators, and testing equipment instead of forcing states to compete for scarce resources, we could have bent the curve far sooner.

We are now approaching 160,000 deaths. He bears personal responsibility for that death toll.

What should the federal government do to stimulate economic recovery from the pandemic shutdowns?

Our goal right now must be to provide Americans with the economic support they need to stay housed, fed and healthy while we maintain the necessary conditions to stop the spread of COVID-19. We will not restart the economy until this public health crisis is behind us. It would be irresponsible to stimulate the economy if that meant encouraging people to come into closer contact in their offices, schools, sports stadiums and thereby accelerate the spread of the disease. This strategy is what countries from South Korea to New Zealand have done and we would be well advised to follow their example.

However, that costs money. 40% of Americans do not have sufficient savings to cover a $400 surprise expense. That means similar proportions can’t afford to quarantine for 14 days and miss a paycheck. That is why we have passed legislation in the CARES and HEROES Acts in the House to provide expanded unemployment insurance. To put a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. To provide businesses with money to cover payroll expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program. To provide free COVID testing and treatment. To provide $1200 checks to tide people through. To expand food assistance through the SNAP and WIC programs.

None of these actions will solve the public health crisis, but by giving people housing, food and health security, we buy time for public health measures to curtail the spread of the disease until we can safely re-open.

Once the public health crisis is behind us, we will have the opportunity to restart the economy. By working to keep small businesses afloat during this period, we can use their entrepreneurial drive and energy to kick start that growth, but we also must make a massive investment in infrastructure on the back end.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, President Trump signed an executive order on police reform. It calls for the creation of a database to track police officers with multiple instances of misconduct, federal grants to encourage police departments to meet higher certification standards on use of force, and the greater involvement of social workers and mental health professionals when the police respond to calls dealing with homelessness, mental illness and addiction. The order also calls for police departments to ban the use of chokeholds except when an officer feels his or her life is endangered. Will this be enough to address concerns about police brutality? If not, what other steps should be taken?

Donald Trump’s executive order does not meet the need to address systemic racism in policing. We also cannot in any way call this a serious effort to reform law enforcement in this country when the same President is sending unidentified federal agents into our cities to teargas, arrest, and shoot rubber bullets at peaceful protesters.

We don’t need to study the problem. We need to act.

That is why the House passed the Justice in Policing Act in Congress. Unlike the President’s executive order, this bill would:

  • Ban all chokeholds;
  • Stop no-knock warrants;
  • End racial, religious and discriminatory profiling;
  • Eliminate the qualified immunity doctrine that is a barrier to holding police officers accountable for wrongful conduct;
  • Establish a National Police Misconduct Registry to improve transparency and prevent problematic officers who are fired or leave one agency, from moving to another jurisdiction without any accountability;
  • Require data collection, including mandatory body cameras and dashboard cameras;
  • Establish new standards for policing and the Public Safety Innovation grants for community-based organizations to help reimagine policing in their communities.

Also in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the House passed the Justice in Policing Act, which would ban police departments from using chokeholds, develop a national standard for use of force, limit the transfer of military weapons to police departments, define lynching as a federal hate crime, establish a national police misconduct registry, and limit qualified immunity, which protects officers from lawsuits over alleged misconduct. Do you support this legislation? Why or why not? What other steps, if any, would you like to see the federal government take on police reform?

I was proud to cosponsor and support the Justice in Policing Act. This legislation delivers the reforms needed to address systemic racism and save lives while increasing transparency to ensure police are held accountable. Our nation is built on the fundamental promise of equal justice for all, and we must continue to fight to fulfill that promise for all Americans.

However, we should be clear that no one would suggest that the passage of the Justice in Policing Act into law would fully address the systemic racism that still infects so much of our criminal justice system. I had the privilege to travel to Selma Alabama with John Lewis before his death and during that trip spent time with Bryan Stevenson, and toured his Legacy museum in Montgomery. Slavery didn’t end in America with the Emancipation Proclamation. It morphed into Jim Crow, and then morphed into mass incarceration and now survives as the war on drugs. We need to acknowledge that the “war on drugs” has never meaningfully reduced drug use in this country, for the simple reason that you can’t constrain demand by criminalizing supply; it’s only served to put black and brown people in jail.

What’s your view on President Trump’s decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone?

Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to Congress, obstructing its inquiry into Russian attacks on our Democracy, and threatening a witness. These are crimes, plain and simple. As the Judge in Stone’s case, Amy Berman Jackson, said “he was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”

Ultimately though, this is bigger than Roger Stone. Our form of government depends on the consent of the governed. That consent should never be taken for granted, and we must never trivialize the damage that can be done when an elected official holds themselves to be above the law. It should never be partisan to demand that all elected officials hold themselves to a higher ethical standard, and the higher the office, the more important that ethical standard is upheld. The commutation of Roger Stone’s sentence - and Republican acquiescence to same - is a threat to the very fabric of our democracy.

Please tell us about your civic work in the last two years, whether it’s legislation you have sponsored or other paid or volunteer work to improve your community.

My legislative priorities when coming into office were climate change, and that remains my primary goal. It was my honor to be selected by Speaker Pelosi to serve on the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, to represent the United States at the COP-25 Climate Conference in Madrid Spain and to play an integral role in the creation of our 500+ page report, mapping the legislative route to ensuring we pass a habitable planet onto our children.

Of course, that personal mission did not anticipate serving in a term facing a global pandemic. We may have different opinions about what to do in this moment, but we must work from a common set of facts. To that end, I have held over 30 town halls all across the district. When COVID struck, we shifted to telephonic and digital town halls, hosting a dozen such events to address constituents and answer their questions. Additionally, my office has helped hundreds constituents recover over $1,000,000 in federal benefits, and resolved over 900 cases.

What are your views on the decision by the U.S. House to impeach President Donald Trump? Was the impeachment process fair or not? How so? If, in your view, the president should not have been impeached, would you have supported censure? Please explain.

Impeaching the President was not a step I foresaw when I began my service as a Representative. The Constitution explicitly includes impeachment as a final check against those who would wield executive power in the service of ‘treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors.’ These abuses of power are exactly what President Trump committed when he withheld military aid to an ally to pressure a foreign government to investigate a political rival, and then systematically obstructed Congress’s ability to learn the truth of his actions. These are the deeply troubling facts that led me to vote for both Articles of Impeachment and uphold my Constitutional responsibility to protect our nation.

The impeachment process in the House was fair. We held hours of witness testimony with legislators from both sides of the aisle and filed a publicly available report with transcripts of that testimony.

The Senate impeachment trial was not nearly as fair. After all, a fair trial has witnesses and evidence. The Senate had neither.

How would you reduce the federal budget deficit, which now stands at about $1 trillion for 2020? What changes, if any, to the U.S. tax code do you support and why?

US tax revenue as a percent of GDP was just 24% in 2018, which reflected a nearly 3% drop from the prior year, due to the 2017 Republican tax bill. That compares to 34% among other OECD countries and 28% in 2000. Four decades after Ronald Reagan, there is no evidence that trickle-down economics works and we should stop pretending to the contrary.

In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith famously wrote that “civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property is in reality instituted for the defence of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” It is a tragedy that his legacy has been so corrupted to use “free market capitalism” as a justification for a tax code that provides exactly what he warned against. The 2017 Republican tax bill provided 83% of its benefit to the wealthiest Americans and corporations - “those who have property”. It expanded inequality, led to a dramatic increase in dividends and stock repurchases and led to no meaningful increase in US capital investment. This is exactly as one would have expected (after all, US corporations were sitting on record cash reserves prior to the tax cut being passed).

So what would a fair, growth-oriented tax code look like? Again, Adam Smith showed us the way when he wrote that “the subjects of every state ought to contribute toward the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the state.” Or as my parents always told me, “to he whom much is given, much is expected.”

Meeting that goal would require a tax code that gets rid of loopholes to ensure that the wealthiest pay at least the same taxes on their total annual cash income as the poor do - not just on that portion which is earned as W-2 income, and not just before deductions designed to protect the wealthy can be taken into account.

At a larger level though, we need to have a more sophisticated conversation about the federal deficit than we do today, which would require creating and maintaining a national balance sheet. We under-invest in infrastructure and over-divest from federal assets. If we maintained a federal balance sheet and used this to inform annual federal spending - just like every business does - we would spend proportionally more federal money on assets that create long-term growth.

What changes would you like to see made to our nation’s healthcare system? Would you shore up the Affordable Care Act or work to repeal it in full? What’s your view on Medicare for All? And what should be done, if anything, to bring down the cost of prescription drugs?

First, and most importantly, we must insist on true, universal health care. Everyone, regardless of employment or wealth, should have access to full preventative health care services — check-ups, screenings, and all the other early-detection measures that reduce the need for higher-cost, later-stage interventions.

The Affordable Care Act took a big step toward universal health care in the U.S., providing more than 20 million additional Americans with access to affordable insurance for themselves and their families. But Republicans have chosen to fight to dismantle the ACA. As recently as June 25, 2020, Donald Trump’s Administration has asked the Supreme Court to yet again repeal the ACA. I am proud to have voted to stop taxpayer-backed federal funds from for the Trump Administration’s lawsuit to strike down the Affordable Care Act. If Trump and Republicans are successful, 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could lose coverage, young adults under the age of 26 would lose coverage, and would allow insurance companies to return to discriminatory practices that force women to pay more for coverage. Even without repealing the ACA, Trump and Republicans have found ways to sabotage the ACA. For example, they have expanded “junk” insurance plans that do not provide coverage for essential medical treatments and drugs, and that are allowed to discriminate against people with pre-existing medical conditions, as well as allowed states to undermine protections for people with pre-existing conditions and weaken standards for essential health benefits through waivers.

In addition to rolling back the Republican sabotage to the ACA, there is more we can do to build and expand the successes of the ACA (1) ensuring that all Americans have affordable health insurance and (2) fixing the flaws in the ACA exchanges to ensure they remain available and solvent.

To address the first goal, we need to provide an affordable, taxpayer-backed base level of health care coverage to those that need it — means-tested to ensure that this base coverage is only available to identify those that truly need assistance if they don’t have access to other employer-based or public programs or have personal wealth.

We should also ensure that anyone who doesn’t qualify for this taxpayer-backed plan has the option to buy into that plan — along with whatever other options they may have from their employer or the ACA.

Taken together, this approach would provide universal health care. It would also provide a “menu” of choices for all Americans who elect to buy into for-profit plans, such that if those market-situated providers offer a more competitive value proposition, Americans can — again, at their sole discretion — buy into those options. Thus, it does not stipulate an end-state based on the idealized views of a few hundred legislators in Washington but rather based on the informed choices of a few hundred million Americans.

In Congress, I was proud to co-sponsor the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act, which would make insurance more affordable to low- and middle-income families, enshrine protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and stop Republican attacks on the ACA that have driven up costs and the ranks of the uninsured. This piece of legislation alone won’t be enough to get us to universal health care, but it will mark a major step towards that end.

Do you support or oppose DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and why? Should a path to citizenship be created for the so-called DREAMers? Please explain.

We must keep the DACA program in place, which protects the immigration status of 700,000 residents who came to this country as children and have known no other home. The vast majority of these young people are contributing to our country, whether as students, entrepreneurs, or even serving in our military. But we also need to fix this legislatively - not just through Presidential executive orders that are too easily undone by future Presidents.

I was proud to cosponsor and vote for H.R. 6, the American Dream and Promise Act, to make the DACA program permanent and give DREAMers a path to citizenship. I wish Senator McConnell would at least bring that bill to the floor of the Senate for a vote, but in the absence of his willingness to lead, I hope we will have a Senate in the next session that’s a bit closer to Ronald Reagan’s observation that the day America stops welcoming immigrants is the day we stop being Americans.

What are the three most important issues in your district on which the federal government can and should act?

We must provide universal, high quality healthcare that is affordable for all Americans. The COVID-19 pandemic shows that access to healthcare is more important than ever. We need a system that does not force people without health insurance to defer preventative check ups and then end up overloading our emergency medicine system when they are faced with more acute care needs. We can, and must do better.

Addressing climate change is not simply a moral obligation, but a massive economic opportunity for our country, and for the district. Converting from a 1950s, fossil-fuel intensive energy infrastructure to a 2020s, fossil-fuel free infrastructure is a shift from depreciated assets with high marginal operating costs to new assets with low/zero marginal operating costs. That isn’t economic pain to be feared but an investment opportunity to be embraced. We will create construction jobs, and drive down the cost of energy-intensive manufacturing. We are amazingly well positioned in the Chicago region for this transition thanks to the technical talent at our Universities and national labs and expertise in our business community

Everybody in the 6th District wants a strong economy with good jobs that enable us to provide for our families. I believe that all Americans should have access to economic opportunity no matter their zip code. That’s why I voted for the Moving Forward Act to make transformative investments in America’s infrastructure and create millions of jobs while taking bold action to combat the crisis.

What is the biggest difference between you and your opponent(s)?

From my time as a CEO to my service as a member of Congress, I have always felt that with great power comes great responsibility. More specifically, the responsibility to look out for those who aren’t at the table and ensure we live up to our foundational principle of equality for all - and to do so in a way that is informed by science and facts, not by political ideology.

My opponent does not share that world view. It is no surprise that she has been endorsed by Ted Cruz, nor that she said she would give Donald Trump an “A” grade. If elected, she will be a rubber stamp for those votes of hatred and division in Washington. I give Donald Trump an “F” grade.

What action should Congress take, if any, to reduce gun violence?

If we define gun violence as deaths from guns, then we have to look to suicides as the largest cause of gun death. For this subset - and only for this subset - the best predictor is mental health, and it is important for us to make sure that those who suffer from mental health, and are prone to suicidal tendencies do not have access to firearms. However, we need to be careful to also recognize that people who suffer from mental health disorders are NOT proportionally more likely to commit gun crimes against others.

If we define gun crimes instead as homicides, then we need to address the fact that we have more guns per capita in the United States than any other country. Yemen is #2. If we took 100 million guns out of circulation tomorrow, we would still be #1.

We do not have a Second Amendment issue. We have a too-many-guns issue. We know how to address this: we need background checks. We need no-fly-no-buy rules. We need an assault weapons ban. Ultimately, I think the best thing we can do on that front is to require all gun owners to license, register, and insure their firearms in the same way we do for our cars. That’s why I introduced H.R. 5866, the Gun Trafficker Detection Act to impose liability on gun-owners who fail to report the loss of a gun that is subsequently used to commit a crime.

Finally, we need to address domestic violence. Individuals with a history of domestic violence should not be able to own guns, period. Individuals under restraining orders for domestic violence should also have their gun ownership rights suspended until a court has ruled on their case.

Is climate change real? Is it significantly man-made? Is it a threat to humankind? What if anything should Congress and the federal government do about it?

Yes, without question. And it pains me that you even have to ask the question. The science is without question, and the consequences are petrifying. When I was born in 1971, atmospheric CO2 concentrations were 330 ppm - roughly consistent with where it had been for the last 100,000 years. Roughly consistent with the environmental conditions that allowed our species to transition from nomadic hunter-gatherers to stable civilizations that could domesticate livestock and crops, build cities, create art, culture, and science. Today, in my 49th year we are over 410 ppm. A nearly 33% increase in my lifetime. The amount of energy reflected by manmade CO2 into our atmosphere is equivalent to 4 Hiroshima-class nuclear bombs every second. Svante Arrhenius identified the scientific cause over 100 years ago and while we have gotten better at modeling and understanding the consequences of those emissions, the basic science is long since settled.

So what should we do? Three things: (a) Cut our primary energy use per dollar of GDP in half (taking us roughly to the level already achieved by Switzerland and Japan), (b) Invest in a massive R&D effort to figure out how to make critical materials - like steel, fertilizer, and cement - from non-fossil inputs and (c) get back to 350 ppm CO2 in the atmosphere.

The first of these is entirely growth-focused since anything we do to reduce energy use per dollar of economic activity gives us more economic value with less expense. From eliminating fossil fuel subsidies to tightening building and vehicle efficiency standards to removing the regulator barriers to competitive, clean generation sources we have a huge array of win/win regulatory solutions. I have introduced numerous bills, from the Climate Risk Disclosure Act to the Energy PRICES Act that would accelerate the realization of this goal.

The second of these is also an opportunity but - like all innovation - one cannot predict where all the benefits will accrue. I introduced the Clean Industrial Technology Act specifically to stand up an agency within the Department of Energy to house this research.

The third is necessary, but is really hard and will require a mix of major agricultural changes to increase carbon-retention in our soils to investments in direct air capture that would remove historic emissions from the atmosphere and safely store underground.

All three goals are innate to the report prepared by the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on which it is my privilege to serve. We have the road map. It’s time to put it to work.

What should Congress do to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare?

Social Security and Medicare are the foundation of economic security for American families. I oppose efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare, as well as efforts to undercut the financial stability of these programs like deficit-busting tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations. I am dedicated to doing more than just fighting back against these attacks, I am a cosponsor of H.R. 860, the Social Security 2100 Act that would improve benefits while ensuring Social Security remains finally strong throughout the century. The bill would apply the payroll tax to wages above $400,000, gradually phase in an increase in the contribution rate, and combine the Old Age and Survivors and Disability Insurance trust funds into and all in one Social Security trust fund. I have also supported legislation to expand benefits under Medicare to include hearing, dental, and vision care.

What should Congress do to address the student loan crisis? Would you use the word “crisis”?

The increasingly high cost of a post-secondary education and resulting student loan debt has created a huge burden on young people. Tuition costs have steadily grown at a far faster rate than the economy as a whole, squeezing the middle class. And the Trump Administration has undermined efforts to provide debt relief to students and families. I support legislation allowing those with student loan debt to refinance at current interest rates and reversing changes to the bankruptcy code in 2005 that make it impossible for insolvent Americans to discharge their student loan debt. I also support permanently indexing the Pell Grant program to the annual inflation rate of college tuition and was able to secure such language in the most recent Higher Education Act reauthorization that the House is considering.

Without a doubt, there is a student loan crisis in this country. Student debt is at an all time high at over $1.6 trillion, and graduates are facing an extremely challenging job market which will likely impact their potential earnings for the rest of their lives.

What should our nation’s relationship be with Russia?

We can of course be empathetic to the plight of the Russian people but we must be the defender of American values on the world stage.

The great challenge of the Trump administration has been their inability to acknowledge the inherent conflict between Russia and the United States’ long term strategic interests. Once we have a new President, we will need to move quickly to re-establish relationships with our longstanding allies, and remind Russia of the heavy conditions and terms of continued U.S. engagement.

What’s your view on the use of tariffs in international commerce? Has President Trump imposed tariffs properly and effectively? Please explain.

I am completely committed to the principle of free trade and comparative advantage. If country A can make widgets more cheaply than country B, it is in country B’s interest to purchase widgets from A. However, that is only true in an idealized sense where the distinctions between those two countries are driven by differential resources or ability rather than simply by regulatory arbitrage. If country A is only cheaper because they refuse to enforce child labor or environmental laws demanded by country B, it is appropriate to use tariffs or other tools to level the playing field.

In a larger sense, trade policy is inseparable from labor and immigration policy. Factories that operate today in Mexico can pay less than $1/hour wages and have an economic advantage against otherwise identical US factories that pay higher wages. This not only puts pressure on those factories to relocate but also puts pressure on US manufacturers to use undocumented labor.

Does the United States have a responsibility to promote democracy in other countries? Please explain.

It is in our own national security interest to promote democracy around the world. The post-WWII era shows that we are safer when other countries value human rights and a system of government that is beholden to the people. That is not to say that we should militarily intervene in autocratic countries to build democracies from scratch, but we should use our diplomatic tools to encourage democratic reforms not because it’s not only the right thing to do but also because it’s the best way to ensure the safety of our own citizens.

What should Congress do to limit the proliferation of nuclear arms?

A good first step would be reentering a deal similar to the Iran Nuclear Deal. That agreement wasn’t perfect, but it did prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon in the near term. Donald Trump’s reckless decision to effectively pull out of the deal led to Iran ramping up its stockpile of uranium and inched them closer to creating a nuclear weapon. We need to work with our allies to pressure Iran to abide by the agreement.

Additionally, the United States should extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) which is set to expire in 2021. It is in both the United States and Russia’s interest to avoid nuclear brinkmanship. It is a failing of Donald Trump’s foreign policy that both the United States and Russia withdrew the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, and we must avoid the same fate for New START.

In other parts of the world, we need to use our full range of diplomatic and economic tools to halt nuclear proliferation. Meeting with autocratic leaders for a photo-op, like Donald Trump did with Kim Jong-Un,will not stop the spread of nuclear arms. The Iran Nuclear Deal provided a roadmap for how international allies can form a multilateral campaign to pressure countries into stopping their development of nuclear arms.

Please list all relatives on public or campaign payrolls and their jobs on those payrolls.


What historical figure from Illinois, other than Abraham Lincoln (because everybody’s big on Abe), do you most admire or draw inspiration from? Please explain.

Mamie Till. Last March, I had the great honor to join John Lewis in the last Congressional march across the Edmund Pettis bridge before he died. We were joined by giants from the civil rights era - Ruby Bridges, many of the Freedom Riders and Freedom Singers, Kwame Abernathy, Jim Lawson and so many more. Over breakfast with Chuck Neblett (one of the Freedom Singers), I asked him how Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King and the other leaders of that era found the courage to stand up against bigotry and hatred in the 1950s. Their parents were lynched. Their grandparents were slaves. What made this moment different? Chuck said that as admired as “Martin and Rosa” were, the real leader was Emmet Till, and more specifically his mother Mamie. Emmet Till was Chuck’s age. And he said that while many people in his generation knew people who were lynched, the national pictures of Emmet’s brutalized body forced masses of people to rise up. Chuck didn’t mean this as any disrespect to those who led from that point forward; he simply said that the movement began before the leaders rose to drive it forward. And that the movement started because of Mamie Till.

What’s your favorite TV, streaming or web-based show of all time. Why?

As a father of two teenage girls who (thankfully!) still like to watch TV shows with Kara and I, I cannot remember the last time I got to watch a TV show based only on what I like to watch. The Wiggles, the Backyardigans, various Disney shows and now Schitt’s Creek and Community all have their charms as family shows, but it feels like a lifetime ago that my wife and I were able to watch The Sopranos, or Deadwood or The Wire without fear of a kid coming in during an inappropriate scene.

That said, the show that made the most impression on me, that I still remember far too many characters and lines from (and may even have worked into the odd Congressional speech) is Saturday Night Live. Bass-o-matic and Toonces the Driving cat are some of my favorite skits, and as a young parent, “Deep Thoughts” was in heavy rotation with Dr. Seuss for nighttime reading. And let’s be honest - there are few cooler things about Chicago than the talent pipeline that is Second City and iO to SNL.

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