Bettylu Saltzman

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Bettylu K. Saltzman

American Civil Liberties Union

As at April 11, 1983, Bettylu Saltzman served as the Vice President specializing in membership on the Board of Directors for the Illinois branch of the American Civil Liberties Union.[1]

Friends of Alice Palmer

Mid 1990s Bettylu Saltzman was listed[2]as a member of Friends of Alice Palmer (in formation), alongside Danny K Davis, Tony Rezko, Timuel Black and Barack Obama.

Saltzman and Obama

Through Project Vote, a voter registration drive that Barack Obama worked on in 1992, he met two key future supporters, both Jewish. One was David Axelrod, a former Chicago Tribune reporter and chief consultant to Chicago mayors Harold Washington and Richard M. Daley who has been Obama's chief strategist since 2002.

The other is a largely behind-the-scenes champion who has been there since the beginning of Obama's political career - Bettylu Saltzman, a longtime liberal activist whose father, Philip Klutznick, was a legendary Chicago developer, Jewish leader and statesman who served as secretary of commerce in the Carter administration and played a leading role in the development of the State of Israel.

Saltzman recalled that when she first met the 30-year-old Obama, "I don't know what I saw, but others saw it too. I'm impressed by the numbers of people who said the same thing. He was clearly brilliant and articulate. I don't know what it was, but there was something about him that was clearly destined to be something very special."

She was working in Bill Clinton's presidential campaign at the time and, perhaps because she was thinking in presidential mode, "I immediately thought, he's going to be president some day. I said to my husband and to a lot of other people, he is going to be our first black president. Why I don't know, but I will never ever forget it."

Later, she said, as she got to know Obama, "I would sort of tease him about it. I always said to him, this is what I think is going to happen, and I think in his own mind he always thought that was what he was going to be, too."

She was also impressed with Michelle Obama and says that "we could have two great people in the White House."

Saltzman supported Obama during his campaign for the state Senate, which he won in 1996, and in his failed bid for Congress against Bobby Rush in 2000. And when Obama was contemplating a U.S. Senate run in 2002, she introduced him to a group of powerful Chicago women who call themselves the Ladies Who Lunch. Many became his supporters.

The following year, Saltzman may have played an even more crucial role in Obama's political rise when she asked him to speak at a downtown Chicago rally against the Iraq war that she was organizing. The speech he gave there became famous, and Obama's early opposition to the war served as a centerpiece of his primary campaign for president.

Saltzman has remained a supporter and now devotes her time to Obama's presidential campaign. "What he did in his early life in Chicago proved that he has a great commitment to people who are less well off," she said, adding that she is encouraged by how many young people are working to get out the vote for him. "People don't always understand the fact that he thinks so clearly," she said. "He is deliberative but not indecisive." And as for Israel, "I think his (recent) trip to the Middle East proved how well accepted he was there." [3]

Business and Professional People for the Public Interest

In 2008, Bettylu Saltzman and Paul Saltzman were listed as sponsors/financial contributors to the Chicago based Business and Professional People for the Public Interest.[4]

As of February 2010, Bettylu Saltzman, was serving on the Executive Committee, and the Board of Directors, and was a Past President for the Chicago based Business and Professional People for the Public Interest.[5]


  1. Memo from Karen Green sent to Illinois Board Members
  2. Undated Friends of Alice Palmer membership list. Harold Washington papers
  3. [1] Chicago Jewish News, October 24, 2008
  4. BPI website: Board of Directors
  5. BPI website: Board of Directors