This Progressive Will Miss Conservative Tom Roeser

by Robert Creamer Robert Creamer is a long-time political organizer and strategist, and author of the book: Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, available on Follow him on Twitter @rbcreamer. 10.06.2011

Last week Chicago lost a legend. Conservative radio host Tom Roeser died at the age of 82.
Tom and I didn't agree on many political issues. In fact, he opposed many of the progressive initiatives to which I have devoted most of my professional life.

But we did agree that America benefits from a spirited, civil, public dialogue about our country's future. And Tom did an enormous amount to nurture that kind of dialogue in his decades as a radio talk show host, a spokesperson for conservative causes, Chairman of the City Club, and Chicago business leader.

Over the years Tom and I had the opportunity to debate politics on radio shows like Bruce DuMont's Inside Politics and Beyond the Beltway many times. In recent years I was often a guest on Tom's own radio show on WLS-AM.
Tom's show was a reflection of how deeply he felt about the importance of passionate but respectful political debate. A half hour or so before show time, he would meet with his guests - generally a Republican and a Democrat - and share a list of topics he intended to discuss during the next hour.

His list wasn't intended to limit spontaneity - callers and their questions provided plenty of that. But Tom wanted his two protagonists to have a moment to think about the issues he would introduce, muster their best sharp, quick comments - and be prepared to engage in an interesting, fast-moving debate. He wasn't interested in long-winded, vacuous political speeches. He wanted the debaters to get right to the essence of the issue - to make a clear, concise case.
Tom never turned his show into an exercise in "gotcha" - ambush style politics -- or name calling. He wanted real live political debate, where each side made its best points.

Just a little over two weeks ago Tom had called to ask if I would appear on his Sunday night show. The Friday afternoon before the show was scheduled I received a call from his daughter informing me that the show had been canceled because Tom had gone to the hospital. In fact, she said, his health had required him to retire from radio. That was just a week and a half before he died.

Well, no one can say the Tom Roeser didn't go out with his boots on.
It's easy to earn the respect of people who agree with your views, and stand with you side by side in the causes you share. The closest bonds in life are often forged in the heat of battle.
But it's rarer to develop strong friendships with your political opponents.

I'm sure I speak for many of Tom Roeser's political opponents when I say that he had our deepest respect - for his integrity, his generosity, and his strongly-held convictions.
And I'm sure I'm not the only one who will remember Tom as one of those fascinating, unforgettable, iconic figures that don't come along often in life.

I am very proud that Tom Roeser was my friend.

Robert Creame's book  "Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win" is available on 

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