By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 25, 2007
CHICAGO — The job offer to “Miss Hillary Rodham, Wellesley College” was dated Oct. 25, 1968, and signed by Saul D. Alinsky, the charismatic community organizer who believed that the urban poor could become their own best advocates in a world that largely ignored them.
Alinsky thought highly of 21-year-old Rodham, a student government president who grew up in the Chicago suburbs. She was in the midst of a year-long analysis of Alinsky’s aggressive mobilizing tactics, and he was searching for “competent political literates” to move to Chicago to build grass-roots organizations.
Seventeen years later, another young honor student was offered a job as an organizer in Chicago. By then, Alinsky had died, but a group of his disciples hired Barack Obama, a 23-year-old Columbia University graduate, to organize black residents on the South Side, while learning and applying Alinsky’s philosophy of street-level democracy. The recruiter called the $13,000-a-year job “very romantic, until you do it.”