Madeline Talbott

Madeline Talbott has been a community organizer for 37 years. She has worked with working families in low and moderate income communities to make the American Dream a reality.

Living Wage Jobs

Madeline has worked with thousands of Chicago and Illinois individuals and organizations to win increases in the state minimum wage (currently at $8.25 per hour in Illinois where it has been stuck since July 1, 2010; The City of Chicago living wage (currently at more than $11 per hour and goes up with inflation every July for city contractors' employees) and the Big Box Living Wage (a proposal to require the largest employers in the country, such as Wal Mart, to pay their employees $10 an hour plus healthcare benefits), which passed city council but was vetoed by the mayor four years ago.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 now. When I was a teenager, it was $1.60 per hour, which in today's dollars would be more than $10/hour. So we're still trying to catch up to a time when one person working could support a family, when minimum wage wasn't enough, but was something.

When I was in grade school, we got the "My Weekly Reader" at school. One article fascinated me. It said that when I was an adult, technology (automation, they called it) would allow companies to make as much with far less labor, so we would all have lots of leisure time. What would we do with our leisure time?

So I feel robbed. I trusted "My Weekly Reader", and instead, the top 1% became super wealthy, and the rest of us work harder for less. It wasn't the Reader's fault. Technology and education delivered huge gains in productivity. But we let a few guys take it from us. Instead of more leisure time, we have more debt and have to look for yet another job. I take it personally.

Public Safety

Madeline has supported Ceasefire and other gang intervention programs that intervene in violence at its source, that understand that ex offenders, when returning to poor communities, need to be met with help in getting back to school and into work, right away, or they will be lured back into a bad life. There are evidence-based programs to reduce violence. Let's use them. And let's offer $15/hour jobs to anyone willing to work hard. There would be no one on the corners to sell the drug and shoot the guns if decent jobs were an option.

Other Issues

Madeline has worked on foreclosure prevention, the rehab of vacant and abandoned houses, (a problem created by Wall Street banks), developing effective teachers for low income students (Grow Your Own teachers) and access to healthcare. I am so proud that healthcare passed on our watch, and expect to see it improved by getting more Congresspersons with huevos, who will support a public option.

Educational Background

Madeline Talbott attended St. Mary's Academy in Portland Oregon for high school and Harvard University, where she received her B.A. in 1975. She was an instructor from 2000-2007 in a graduate program in Community Development at North Park University, a Christian Covenant college located on the north side of Chicago.

Personal Background

Madeline has a wonderful husband of 27 years and two marvelous daughters, both now college graduates! She also has a third "daughter" who came to live with the family seven years ago, who is also a college graduate! The girls have moved on, but Madeline and her wonderful husband, Keith, live in the same apartment in the Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago that they have called home for more than 24 years.


Catholic, but wavering. She loves the nuns on the bus, but the bishops are wearing her down. She has an interest in all religions, but the Sermon on the Mount is the most phenomenal, and Christ's passion for justice lives on. The Church is the place where she developed her commitment to justice. But the changes in the Church make it almost unrecognizable anymore. However, it's our Church, the church of the people, with a preferential option for the poor, and a place where many of us still celebrate the struggle for justice: social justice, economic justice, Justice.


Madeline loves novels, especially Jane Austen. She is also a movie fan, pretty much into happy endings for sure. She watches the dance competition shows on TV with her daughters, and .is a particular fan of the Nanny shows, for which her family makes terrible fun of her. They also make fun of her Bruce Springsteen fan-aticism and her recent interest in opera. She loves the philosophy of Stanley Cavell and the people he writes about, especially Henry David Thoreau. Motown music, including Aretha, Smokey Robinson (My Girl) and the Spinners (Then Came You) are also great.


Madeline is a democrat and loves to figure out how to get a majority of the power into the hands of a majority of the people. Things are supposed to work that way, but everyone knows the rich folks and the corporations (thank you, Supreme Court!) usually win. Doesn't have to be that way, though. A majority of the people could wield a majority of the power. I am not bothered by all the mistakes we would make, because we can't possibly make any more than Wall Street has been making.

I don't think everyone is wonderful, but I like people, find most of them to be pretty lovely, when we're not being petty and mean and whatnot. I doorknocked for a living, so I met lots of strangers that way, and I find them to be, almost always, better than expected. Until we all start doorknocking, here and across the country and around the world, I think we won't believe it: that most people agree with us, that most of us want the same things: good health, freedom, some equality or equity or fairness or something like that, enough to eat, love and friendship and family, warmth, through shelter and heat/utilities and clothing. And something left over when the bills are paid, so we can have fun, create, learn, seek whatever our dreams are, and not drudge our lives away. That's what the politicians put in their brochures every election, but we won't get it until we join together to do so. In my case, my dreams are fulfilled, not in the getting there, but in the community we create while we're trying to get somewhere. For me, it happens to be communities of struggle and love.

On Right Wing Attacks

I am a happy mother, wife, community organizer, dreamer, doer. I am someone special to the extent we all are, but, until the presidential campaign of 2008, I was not anyone you would ever hear about.

Because I had worked with ACORN for more than thirty years, and because I knew Barack Obama as a professional acquaintance, (no, Barack never worked for me or ACORN, but the right wing says it so often that it has become a kind of folk wisdom-believe, me, I would have noticed if he worked for us, as I was running the Chicago office, the only office in Illinois.) But in fact, if I ran into him on the street, he would speak to me, so it's not like I didn't know the man. Anyway, in 2008, Karl Rove decided to kill two birds with one stone: to destroy ACORN's reputation, and to tie Barack to ACORN by claiming he worked for me. Thus it became convenient for some of the right wing to attack me. If ACORN could be branded as a terrible organization, and I was with ACORN, then I was terrible too. If I knew Barack Obama and was married to a union organizer, then Barack and unions are terrible too. So, I'm what you might call the connector in this strategy. That's why when you google me, you get a lot of garbage.

It is not logic, but it sounds a little bit like logic, to assume that if ACORN is evil and Madeline Talbott was with ACORN, then she must be evil too. And if Barack Obama knew her, he must be too. And if she married a union organizer, then unions must be evil too. That's Glenn Beck's logic, and it works about as well as this does: Glenn Beck is on Fox News. Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch, an Australian. So Glenn Beck is an Australian. But it sounds so much better the other way.
Sorry to go on, but every couple of years at election time, I get my 15 minutes of fame, so I just thought I would try to explain it to those of you who are wondering. Thanks for getting this far, now put on a Bruce Springsteen record, or Common if you prefer, and have some fun. The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice, especially if you jump up and grab it and PULL.