©2009 Chicago Tribune/Alex Garcia
In early 2003, I was assigned to shoot a press conference at the Allegro Hotel in Chicago, where a state senator named Barack Obama was to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate. Every ambitious politician was getting into what the Tribune described as a “crowded and contentious” senatorial race, so there wasn’t much noteworthy about the announcement – especially since Obama was a total unknown. And with a name like “Barack Obama”, I remember thinking to myself “Obama? Sorry man – you won’t go far with that name.” I simply didn’t give credit to the electorate to look beyond it. Even Obama laughs about the time. When I photographed him for his first newspaper interview after being elected president, I mentioned that I was there for his senate campaign announcement. He remarked “You mean when only eight people supported me…?” Five years after that press conference, I happened to be walking in the Loop past the Allegro Hotel, the morning after he was elected president. As I was remembering my woefully mistaken prediction of his political future, I saw stacks of newspapers on the curb with his face all over the front page. People were grabbing the newspapers like there was no tomorrow. I guess you can’t underestimate the electorate, or for that matter, President Barack Obama…(For a photo gallery of his first year in office by a Tribune photographer, click here).