Karen Kidd Feb. 8, 2016, 6:20am


As a long-time supporter of the current U.S. president, Ray Coleman of East St. Louis believes Barack Obama will have plenty to reflect upon during his speech before the Illinois General Assembly this week. 

"I can imagine he will take a nostalgic look back on the same date, February 10, 2007, when he announced his run for President at the Old Capitol Building," Coleman said. "I feel he will also take the opportunity to encourage the Governor and General Assembly to end the budget impasse."

Coleman, author of "The Obama Phenomenon: A Spiritual Perspective," has known Obama since 2003 and was active in both presidential campaigns. 

Obama will be only the fourth president to speak before state legislators in Springfield when he addresses a joint session of the Illinois General Assembly on Wednesday. Obama is a former Illinois state senator, having served the 13th District from 1997 until his 2004 election to the U.S. Senate and the beginning of his first term as president in 2008.

Coleman pointed out Obama's scheduled arrival coincides with the state's continued budget impasse that has caused cutbacks in social services and has put the state's public colleges and universities accreditation at risk.

"I think this budget impasse is very devastating to our State economy and it is not having the intended results the Governor wanted," Coleman said. "Due to court ordered payouts, the State budget deficit is growing not shrinking. I also feel it is irresponsible for Governor Rauner to place unnecessary government reform items within the budget negotiations. The under-served communities are hit extra hard with the current budget impasse."

While the budged impasse looms large, much of Obama's visit to Springfield cannot help but to be about the history of his time in office and his legacy, Coleman said.

Coleman said his experience behind the scenes of both Obama presidential campaigns has given him his own perspective of what that history and legacy might be. He served on a state steering committee during Obama's 2008 and 2012 campaigns. In the 2012 campaign, Coleman also was a deputy field organizer, recruiting and managing volunteers in four counties in south central Iowa. That was in addition to contacting prospective voters by phone and door to door, particularly in voter registration and early voting activities.

Founder of two not-for-profit organizations, Legacy Keepers and Leadership Alliance 21, Coleman is a governmental affairs and political consultant for Washington Park, Citizens to Elect Ann Rodgers and Citizens for Emeka Jackson.

The Quincy University graduate and former East St. Louis High School basketball coach said he is on the March 15 primary ballot for precinct committeeman of St. Clair County Democratic Precinct 31.

Coleman said he also has formed an exploratory committee in advance of a possible run, as an Independent, for State House District 114 seat.

He said he supports former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's bid to succeed Obama as President.

With the inauguration of Obama's successor less than a year away, Coleman said he has some clear ideas of how Obama's time as president will be viewed by future generations.

"I feel President Obama will go down in history as one of the most transformative Presidents of all time," Coleman said. "I can safely say the guy I campaigned for lived up to his word as U.S. Senator and then as President. I never lost confidence that he would do a good job and would always work hard for all citizens who needed a chance to live the American dream."

Obama post presidency likely will become a worldwide community organizer with groups such as My Brother’s Keeper Community and Organizing for Action, Coleman said.

"These are two of the organizing tools he has already loaned his name to," Coleman said.

He added that he had some inside observation of Obama's own legacy crafting.

"At the 2013 Inauguration, his campaign team organized a Legacy Conference where supporters and volunteers were given a sneak peek at what his legacy would look like," Coleman recalled.

"I have stayed a part of the legacy building throughout the years. I see the Obama Foundation, Library, and Museum all located in Chicago as the catalyst to major community organizing, economic development and job creation in under-served communities across Illinois, the country and other parts of the world with similar obstacles to overcome as we face in America."

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