In 1992, a Chicago woman named Bettylu Saltzman met Barack Obama, who had graduated from Harvard Law School one year earlier and was now in her city leading a voter-registration drive called Project Vote. Saltzman, an heiress to a shopping-mall fortune who's long been active in Democratic politics, was volunteering for Bill Clinton's presidential bid when, one day, Obama dropped by the campaign's Chicago office to discuss Project Vote. Saltzman came away from the encounter very, very impressed.
It was a cool, damp afternoon when Barack Obama arrived to speak at an antiwar rally in Chicago's Federal Plaza on October 2, 2002. The scene was ragtag. A metal tower had been festooned with strips of white cloth upon which rally attendees wrote personalized peace messages. Protesters danced to a band featuring kazoos and a marching skeleton. Jesse Jackson was to be the day's marquee speaker. But it was Obama, wearing a war is not an option lapel pin, who stole the show. Obama's 926-word speech denounced a "dumb war. A rash war.