The following story is reprinted in full with permission from its source, The Quad-City Times
On a night when the world watched Barack Obama make history by becoming the first African-American to be elected president, former U.S. Rep. Lane Evans had a rare opportunity to meet with him personally.
Evans, who represented Illinois’ 17th Congressional District from 1983 to 2007, met with Obama just hours before the president-elect would mount a stage in Chicago’s Grant Park and give a historic victory speech.
The meeting, at a Chicago hotel in the late afternoon, was a poignant encounter, according to a person who was there. And it was a nod from the man who is about to become the most powerful person in the world to someone who endorsed him early on but is fighting two debilitating diseases.
“It was very quiet, very personal,” said Cher Erickson, the guardian for the former congressman who is battling Parkinson’s and Lewy body disease, a leading cause of degenerative dementia.
Evans, who is 57, lives at an assisted living center in Silvis, Ill.
He has difficulty finishing his thoughts, and his sentences meander. But in an interview Thursday, he said the meeting between him and the incoming president was a memorable moment.
“It was everything you’d imagine,” he said.
It isn’t unusual that Obama and Evans meet personally. The president-elect has repeatedly praised the Rock Island Democrat, and when Obama was in Davenport in August, the two met.
But this meeting, on a historic night, was particularly meaningful for Evans, Erickson said. The two talked about the campaign and Evans’ early support for Obama.
In June 2003, Evans endorsed Obama from a pack of better-known suitors for the Democratic nomination to run for an open U.S. Senate seat. At the time, Obama called Evans a hero and said his endorsement was an “enormous boost.”
Now, it’s Evans who is effusive in his praise of the president-elect.
“I think he’ll be a great president,” he said.
Obama and Evans spent 20 to 25 minutes together.
Evans, Erickson and another friend later went to Grant Park to watch the president-elect give his acceptance speech in a VIP area.
They were among political friends of Obama’s, as well as celebrities, such as Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Pitt came over to shake Evans’ hand, Erickson said, and even gave her a kiss on the cheek. “It was a pretty cool time,” she said.
Evans is planning to go to the inauguration in January in Washington, D.C.
It is the beginning of a new era, Evans said, and he made clear he’s eager to see a change in administrations.
While a congressman, Evans was harshly critical of the Bush administration. He thinks with Democrats now controlling the White House and Congress, there will be substantial change.
“I think it’s a pretty large mandate,” he said.
Ed Tibbetts can be contacted at (563) 383-2327 or firstname.lastname@example.org.