CHICAGO – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s career started back in Ann Arbor, where she earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan.
She shared the impact the university had on her during an interview ahead of this week’s Michigan vs. Ohio State University football game.
The Michigan difference
“It really had an enormous influence in a lot of ways, some of which I appreciated at the time and some which I only understand with the passage of time,” Lightfoot said. “They’re many people that I connected with there who are now helpful in my present day job. But, just also this spirit of community and fellowship that being an alum of Michigan really brings to the table. There’s nothing like it.”
She grew up in Ohio before making her way to Ann Arbor for school. Despite that, she hope’s she’ll see the Wolverines defeat the Buckeyes when the teams face off Saturday at the Big House.
“I just think that with the talent that we have on both sides of the ball, we should be getting a better result,” Lightfoot said.
A role model for LGBTQ young people
Lightfoot made history when she was elected to be Chicago’s 56th mayor -- she is the first black woman and first openly gay person to serve as the city’s mayor.
“It’s important for people to be able to live their authentic life; it’s critically important, no matter what it is. Whether you’re a member of this community or some other, we have to be able to respect our diversity and support that diversity,” Lightfoot said.
She said it means a lot to her when parents tell her the impact she has had on their gay children.
“I will tell you one of the things that I am most proud of, is the number of parents that come to me, pull me aside, and they’ll say, ‘My son or daughter just came out. They’re so encouraged by who you are, the way your carry yourself in the world,’” she said.
Lightfoot grew up without LGBTQ role models, so she said she knows the impact seeing people like herself in leadership positions can have on others.
“I grew up at a time where I didn’t know anyone who was LGBTQ. First of all, the language wasn’t there for me to be able to speak it,” she said. “And so many of our young people I think need to see themselves in leaders and in leadership so they can realize, ‘I have a role model in which I can model my aspirations, my life.'"
Lightfoot also offered a message to parents of LGBTQ children: “What I say to the parents is, ‘Look, I hope that what you take away from seeing me every day and the success I’ve been able to have in my life, is that your young daughter or son who is coming out and finding their voice as a member of the LGBTQ community, they are going to be just fine if you support them and if you love them like you would do with any of your other children.’"