Nicole Roman, Operations Manager
We have quite the crew at my mom’s house. Our dinner table resembles the United Nations-my family is a mix of Italian, Polish, Irish and German. My parents adopted two of my brothers from South Korea and my stepsister is Mexican. Between siblings, spouses, partners and their kids, we have at least 15 people at the dinner table. In addition, we also invite friends that are not able to be with their own families for Thanksgiving. We all go around the table and say what we are grateful for and that is what I look forward to the most. I love hearing what everyone is grateful for, especially the younger kids. Some things are said that make you laugh and some make you cry.
If I could invite more people to join us for dinner I would invite my Grandpa Joe, who passed away from cancer before I was born. My mom always shared her memories with me about what a humble, loving man he was. I would love to meet him, give him a hug and talk about his life over some ridiculously good wine. I would also invite Abraham Lincoln, so I could tell him what a difference he made in the world, and Eleanor Roosevelt, so I could thank her and tell her how I admire her zest for life and mostly her courage. During a difficult period in my life, I kept reading this one specific quote from her: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
We’d all come together to listen to a live performance by Frank Sinatra and after several cocktails we would make hilarious videos with Chris Farley.
Julia Schatz, Senior Account Executive
If I could invite anyone, dead or alive, to Thanksgiving dinner the guest list would include: Michelle and Barack Obama, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Derrick Rose, Jennifer Lawrence (for comic relief), Morgan Freeman and Jimmy Buffet. I really think I would be great friends with all of these living guests so, if any from this list reads this, please feel free to take me up on the invitation! I would invite Princess Diana to learn more about her life and hear what she thinks of her family and new grandson. I would I also invite Daniel Burnham to pick his brain on what he thinks of Chicago today vs. what he imagined and hoped for when he created his Plan for Chicago. Cheers to what would be a memorable Thanksgiving feast! Oh, and I would invite Martha Stewart to cook.
Ashleigh Johnston, Account Executive
My Thanksgiving guest list would have to include my grandpa Charlie, who passed away before I was born. He trained pilots during World War II, and my dad says his personality is similar to Red Forman’s, so you know he would be a blast to hang out with. I’d also invite my half-brother Ryan, who isn’t able to attend this year so all the Johnstons could be together. I would also invite my other grandpa that passed away 10 years ago because he was gone too soon, and I would love to get to know him as an adult. Lastly, I would invite Walt Disney because I would love to hear direct from the man about his incredible vision, his life, and what his thoughts are on the current state of the company and what he would change about it. I’m inspired by this one man who was so determined to make his seemingly impossible dreams a reality. His innate ability to connect with an audience has brought families together, bridged cultural gaps and, if only for brief moments, encouraged adults to never lose sight of their inner child.
Conor Culloton, Assistant Account Executive
I want to break the stereotype that as a 20-year-old college student, I would choose to eat a hypothetical Thanksgiving dinner with someone as cliché as Ayn Rand, Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur or John Lennon. I would rather meet one of my role models: Jane Addams, founder of Chicago’s Hull House Settlement and pioneer in social work and sociology. St. Jane, as she is sometimes called for her remarkable compassion and care for people, established an organization dedicated to community building and addressing social issues among immigrants and locals. Sadly, most of her compound in the near west side of Chicago has been demolished to make way for UIC’s soccer fields, except for the original Hull House, which is now a museum. I would want to have a long conversation with her and pick her brain, because she was so incredible, and accomplished so much. Addams managed to battle the rigid racism, classism, sexism, and nativism that was prevalent in the 19th century and ultimately created an effective institution that helped so many people.
Tracey Mendrek, Executive Vice President
Who would I invite for Thanksgiving Dinner? John F. Kennedy would be my first choice. Like many Americans, I fell in love with politics because of Camelot and a leader lost too soon. What his legacy might have been has served as fodder for books and movies for years. My discussion would not necessarily center around policy as much as an exploration of what shaped his world view. Many have taken credit, but who he went to for advice and counsel would be interesting to learn.
The remainder of my table would be filled out with several teachers or professors that I wish I had known better. Educators who seem brilliant today, but at the time were not well appreciated. Rodney Davis, Bill Brady, Barry Swanson and Sheryl Hinman; as professors of The Great River, Shakespeare and teachers of junior high English, respectively, impact me more today than they ever did in class. I’ve written here before about Rod Davis and The Great River. Professor Brady, who was the great orator of Shakespeare, must have wondered why I kept coming back for the C’s he delivered to me in every blue book I ever wrote for two terms. Barry Swanson for teaching English in a hands on way, including each of us playing a role in To Kill A Mockingbird. I still remember the smell of the musty auditorium. And Sheryl Hinman, who was a single woman teaching with great authority to a class full of young students who she greatly influenced with her ability to make the words jump off the page.
From all of these invitees one thing seems clear: thoughts turn into words, words turn into actions and actions turn into legacy.
Patrick Skarr, Senior Account Supervisor
At first I thought of inviting President and Chief Justice William Howard Taft, but then I grew concerned he would make fun of my modified vegetarianism, leave minimal food for others and quite possibly, break a dining room chair. Next I thought of inviting Richard Nixon, because I’m not sure how many dinner invitations he received post presidency, but I always imagined he’d be a fountain of provocative thoughts over a meal. But part of having a guest to a holiday dinner is making sure they don’t upset your 93-year-old grandmother, so…he’s out!
I think my family and I would enjoy sharing a glass of wine and some pie with the always dapper and suave Cary Grant. After all, everyone wants to be Cary Grant, even Cary Grant.
Angela Benander, Vice President of Advocacy and Corporate Responsbility
Since I’m staying in Chicago this year for Thanksgiving, I put together a Chicago-themed guest list:
At the top of my list is Jane Addams, the social reformer and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. Addams did radical work in Chicago’s poor and immigrant communities and I would love to hear what it was like to be a non-traditional woman at the height of the Progressive Era.
I would invite my very favorite contemporary author who just so happens to live in Chicago, Aleksandar Hemon. His story is almost unreal – he was visiting the US in a cultural exchange from his native Bosnia in 1992 when the war broke out and made it impossible for him to return home. His books and short stories are even more astonishing when you consider that English is not his native language. His experimental novel Nowhere Man changed my life – go read it.
Also invited is the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the first person I ever campaigned for to be elected President (during the 1984 primaries. I was in the second grade). His perspective on the Civil Rights Movement has to be incredible to hear in person.
The author Nelson Algren lived in my neighborhood and wrote about the seedier side of Chicago in the 1940s and 1950s. He had an affair with the legendary feminist Simone de Beauvior and was investigated by the FBI for suspected Communist sympathies in the McCarthy era. I’ll pour the whiskey; Algren can bring the poker chips.
And finally, I would invite Harrison Ford, who was born in Chicago. Because having Han Solo as a dinner guest is too great a prospect to pass up.