WASHINGTON -- When Alexi Giannoulias was an undergraduate at the University of Chicago in the mid-1990s, one of the guys he would play pick-up basketball games with in Hyde Park was Barack Obama, who taught at the U. of C. law school.
Now Giannoulias is the Illinois state treasurer and Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee. Obama has been "like a mentor to me," Giannoulias told me. He will be one of the parade of Chicagoans who will speak at the Democratic convention Monday night, when Obama's family and friends tell the story of Obama's life.
Michelle Obama is Monday's prime time speaker, and she will be introduced by her brother, Craig Robinson, who grew up with her on Chicago's South Side.
"I want people throughout the country to know the Barack Obama I know," said Giannoulias. Giannoulias --who won a tough primary with Obama's endorsement -- is a surrogate -- stumping in half dozen states; a major fund-raiser, on Obama's National Finance Committee, which means collecting at least $250,000 and a primary day basketball buddy.
Also on the bill: Comptroller Dan Hynes, whom Obama beat in the 2004 Senate primary, only to go on and lead the call for him to run for president; Attorney General Lisa Madigan; Chicago City Clerk Miguel del Valle and two men who can talk about Obama's days as a community organizer on the Southeast Side of Chicago, Jerry Kellman and SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. Obama moved to Chicago from New York when Kellman hired him as a community organizer.
Other Illinoisans speaking in Denver:
• • Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) is a personal friend -- one of his sisters sang at Barack and Michelle's wedding-- a political ally -- they come out of the complex political mix of Chicago's South Side -- and he's a national co-chair of the presidential campaign. He'll also be speaking Monday night
This won't be the first time Jackson has addressed conventions. He has before -- to introduce his father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson. The Obama convention will be the first in a generation that the senior Jackson does not speak. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), another national co-chair, will also address the convention, as will Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who is a leader of the House Democrats and a close friend.
• • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) -- the No 2 man in the Senate who was one of the first to boost Obama as a presidential contender -- sets up the scene for an Obama video to be shown at Invesco Field before Obama delivers his acceptance speech the last night of the convention.
• • Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth speaks on Wednesday, and Mayor Daley may be on the bill that night. Duckworth is likely to be tapped by Gov. Blagojevich to replace Obama if he wins the White House. When she ran for Congress in 2006, her media strategist was David Axelrod -- now Obama's senior adviser.