Tribute to Abner Mikva: Nancy Kaszak
I first met Ab in 1966, when he was making his first run for Congress. I was a bored high school sophomore in Calumet City, watching all the drama of the 60’s unfold on television. I wanted to be part of it, but didn’t know how. I had developed strong religious and ethical values, thanks to my parents and the nuns & priests at St. Victor’s grade school. I knew I wanted to do things that promoted those values in the public sector. I also felt that Calumet City was quite a boring place, filled with many people who did not reflect my values.
Some of Ab’s campaign literature was left at our door. In my mother’s attempt to deal with her bored daughter, she handed me the campaign piece and said, “He seems like a good guy, why don’t you get involved in his campaign.” I soon was volunteering at a nearby campaign office, looking up addresses and phone numbers. Then, Ab came to the office and talked with me. He said that what I was doing was very important. When I heard about precinct work, I said, “I can do that.” A few weeks later when the campaign became desperate for precinct workers, they decided that it was time to send the 15-year-old out into the precincts. I loved it! People were treating me like an adult and listening to what I had to say. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I showed up at the campaign office on election night. I was greeted with a round of applause. I had carried my 3 precincts—the only precincts carried in the suburban part of Ab’s district. I was on my way. I was also thrilled to intern for Ab in Washington in 1971 and later working as his campaign office manager in 1972.
I think this is a truly an amazing story of a person who was my mentor and hero of my childhood also being my mentor 50 years later. I have been so graced in my life. Over these years, Ab always stood for strong ethical standards and kept me thinking that somehow these values will prevail in our society. I am extraordinarily grateful for what Ab has been and done for me. In spite of the sad state of our electoral process, I still feel that I can have a voice in effectively promoting values I treasure. This has been Ab’s great gift to me for which I will always be thankful.