I was never very political when I was young. I did well academically in high school and was accepted to Yale University as an undergraduate. After Yale I applied to London School of Economics and was accepted by Manchester University. I had planned to attend law school afterwards, but my draft board said they would draft me instead of giving me a deferment for law school. I told my father I was willing to take that risk, but he was paying for it and wasn’t going to take the risk, so I went to law school at Harvard.
After my first year, I withdrew and spent the next three years as a Vista Volunteer doing community organizing in Chicago and Detroit. On my second day in Chicago, Dr. King was killed. The west side of Chicago went up in flames. The next morning, stones crashed through the windows of a white-owned grocery store while my colleagues and I were shopping inside. We lay on the floor of a taxi driven by a black vista to get out of the neighborhood, and were moved to the north side where we were to organize the winos, as we facetiously and disrespectfully said. A baptism by fire to be sure. Bobby Kennedy was killed a few months later. It was a sad summer.
When I went back to law school, I decided I would be a rich corporate lawyer for 20 years and then run for the Senate or something, very unrealistic. It only took a couple years of law practice in Cleveland, Ohio, where I’m originally from, before I decided it was emotionally unfulfilling, so restless once again, I took a year off to find myself. I bought a motorcycle and took it around the country. It was during that year that I decided to get involved in politics, so I went back to Cleveland and found myself working in Dennis Kucinich’s campaign when he won for Mayor in 1977. When he won, I became an Assistant Law Director of Cleveland, and it was during those two years of his term that my political ambitions flourished. I first ran for Cleveland School Board in 1981 and Cleveland City Council in 1988. That same year I moved to St. Louis, finally winning my first elective office for St. Louis School Board in 1997 (again in 2001, 2010 and 2014). It took me 16 years since I first ran for office to win an election, and it was very gratifying. Everyone says I’ve done well on the school board, and I’m smart on education, which is the signature issue of my campaign. It’s good to stay with your dreams if you believe in yourself, and I do.
Since then, I’ve won the Democratic nomination of US Congress from Missouri’s 2nd District (the nomination I’m running for again this year) 10 years ago in 2008, but lost to Todd Akin in the General Election. In 2012 was third out of 8 candidates in the Democratic Primary for Missouri Lieutenant Governor with 12% of the vote statewide. All the other candidates were current or former elected officials – three of them state reps – and most had $100,000+. I spent $25,000. I always have performed above my campaign spending, because I have good name recognition and respect from my years on the school board and my other campaigns. And people seem to think I’m smart, funny, compassionate, sincere, and feisty, which I like to think is true.
I believe I have some gifts for public service. If I do, they’re God’s gifts and mine to squander.
I believe I may be about to win my second major office, 21 years after my first one. And as hard as it’s been to get here, it’ll be even harder to accomplish my goals in Washington, but I have confidence that I’m up to it, but will have to earn that confidence every day, and I intend to. I hope you’ll wish me well, support me, and pray for me.