BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporteremail@example.com June 2, 2013 8:54PM
Greg Galluzzo is retiring after a lifetime as a Chicago community activist. He mentored Barack Obama during his days as a young community organizer on the South Side of Chicago. He also started the Fiesta del Sol festival in Pilsen. | Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 3, 2013 2:13AM
The man who taught a young Barack Obama how to be a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago recalls his ability to talk to anyone, from the very poor to the very rich.
At 69, Greg Galluzzo is weeks from retiring — or at least not getting paid — from the Gamaliel Foundation, the training and consulting organization he has directed since 1986. Galluzzo, also the creator of the United Neighborhood Organization, managed to stay behind the scenes during his 41-year community-organizing career, which he says is the sign of a good organizer.
“We’re not supposed to be in the spotlight,” he said. “We’re suppposed to create the scenario so the indigenous people of the community are our leaders.”
But there are those in the community-organizing world who take a different and very public path. Galluzo met Obama in 1985, and remembers him at age 21 as “a hardworking man, very willing to learn, a man with incredible integrity and a man who was comfortable no matter who he was talking to.”
“He really embraced the community, and the community embraced him,” Galluzzo said. “I think it was one of the more formative moments in his life where he became proud of his own ancestry because the people made him proud.”
Galluzzo met with Obama weekly for a year, teaching him how to raise money for his community organization and how to design community strategies.