For Lois Weisberg, a Salute

by George Anastaplo

Chicago Cultural Center, January 23, 2011

It can be considered providential that this talk on Aristotle’s Poetics, here at the Chicago Cultural Center, should be a few days after Lois Weisberg, the Chicago Cultural Affairs Commissioner (whose office is in this building), announced that she is resigning her post, effective February 1st. Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune editorial commending her service concluded with these observations (January 22, 2011, sec. 1, p. 10):

As chief of Cultural Affairs, [Lois] Weisberg believed her job was to provide “the citizens of Chicago with every opportunity to grow in spirit and knowledge,” as she said in a 2003 speech. She’s done that well, as a private citizen and as the public face of taxpayer support for the arts for the last twenty-two years….

I was privileged to come to know her during my service with the Governor’s Commission on Individual Liberty and Personal Privacy for the State of Illinois, a commission chaired by her late husband, Bernard Weisberg, then a lawyer in the firm of Gottlieb & Schwartz, whom I first met as a fellow student in the University of Chicago Law School. She was eminently helpful in espediting the meetings that we had, both formal and informal, during the two years (1974-1976) that the Privacy Commission worked. A decade later, I was asked by Bernie Weisberg to make some remarks at the United States Courthouse here in Chicago, upon his installation as United States Magistrate. Lois Weisberg was properly proud of the considerable accomplishments of her husband and their two sons. Her hardheadedness was nicely displayed for me, when she spotted me at a “popular” program she had introduced one evening at Millennium Park. Her spontaneous greeting to me—“What are you doing here?”—suggests that she did not develop and promote only those programs that she and her circle would be personally interested in.

Lois Weisberg was said to be one of the few Chicagoans who could drop in on the Mayor in his office without an appointment. It is to his credit that he recognized her (after her service in the Harold Washington Administration) as someone who was eminently competent without being threatening. She was very much a public servant, someone determined to make this Cultural Center a public place where the arts could be supported and displayed to advantage (not only here but citywide). (We all remember with pleasure the cows that grazed on sidewalks all over the city for some months. Bernie Weisberg would have been pleased to find one of them on display, as it now is, in the main lobby of his law school.) One could see, in Lois Weisberg’s career, a decades-long display of that skillful blending of politics with art for which Ancient Athens is still celebrated and about which we will be talking today.

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