Pictured Above: Prof. Michelle Alexander, a civil rights advocate and writer.

Public Affairs Committee


A Tradition of Advocacy & Service to the Community


Founded in 1879, the Union League Club of Chicago (ULC) is the only private club in the United States that has an institutional commitment to public policy and community service. Its Public Affairs Committee (PAC) is at the forefront of the Club’s ongoing commitment to community and country. The PAC and its various subcommittees address a wide range of public policy issues, sponsor programs on current affairs with prominent speakers, and serve as the conduit for the Club’s involvement in civic affairs.

The Club’s by-laws assign to the PAC responsibility for addressing public policy matters and recommending policy positions to the Board of Directors. The PAC advances its work in many ways, including coalition building, supporting public information campaigns, sponsoring debates and forums, and testifying before legislative bodies on behalf of positions approved by the Board. In recognition of the Club’s record of public policy leadership and advocacy, in 2007 the Illinois League of Women Voters presented to the PAC and the ULC its prestigious Civic Contribution Award – the first time this statewide award was ever given to an organization instead of an individual recipient.

In addition to its programming and public policy advocacy activity, the PAC also is responsible for the ULC’s annual George Washington’s Birthday Gala as well as nominating to the Board of Directors ULC Distinguished Musician Privilege Holder candidates and individuals worthy of the Club’s Distinguished Public Service Award. For more information, please contact the Public Affairs Office at 312.435.5946 or

PAC Subcommittees

The PAC comprises several subcommittees that lead its programming and advocacy efforts:

  • The Administration of Justice Subcommittee focuses on criminal justice and judicial matters. Examples include the collateral on sequences incurred by defendants convicted of offenses in the criminal justice system, as well as tracking the disposition of funds remaining in the Capital Litigation Trust Fund (which provided resources to help provide competent defense for indigent persons accused of a capital crime when Illinois ad a death penalty). The panel also partners with leading bar organizations – including the Chicago Bar Association, Illinois State Bar Association, and Chicago Council of Lawyers – to urge citizens to vote in judicial retention elections and to disseminate the Bar organizations’ ratings of judges, focusing particular attention on those judges deemed “not recommended” for retention. 

  • The Breakfast@65West Subcommittee oversees Breakfast@65West, the Club’s popular morning civic affairs series launched in 2005. These breakfast forums feature expert panels and examine a wide range of policy issues. Past programs have featured a discussion of newspaper editorial pages and their impact on the political process, debates among candidates for public office, an examination of gambling as a source of government revenue, the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), and many other topical issues. 

  • The Council of the Calumet Subcommittee is dedicated to addressing issues of concern common to the bordering regions of northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana, including economic development, education, environment, transportation and tourism. The subcommittee’s mission is to foster dialogue and cooperation among elected officials, planning agencies, and civic leaders in both states. It helped to secure an historic 2010 agreement signed by the Governors of Illinois and Indiana creating a bi-state cooperative framework to build an “Illiana Expressway” alleviating congestion and spurring economic growth in both states. The panel is named for the “calumet,” the peace pipe given to Pere Marquette by the Chief of the Illiniwek tribe in 1673.

  • The Education Subcommittee examines a wide range of educational issues, including proposals to reform Illinois’ system of financing public schools, implementation of the federal “No Child Left Behind” law, reviewing teacher resources and training, and analyzing charter school performance. The panel managed a highly successful multi-year partnership with Chicago’s Medill Elementary School, which helped produce dramatic improvements in student achievement. 

  • The External Relations Subcommittee works with outside organizations such as the League of Women Voters, Civic Federation, Better Government Association, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Metropolitan Planning Council, and others to present candidate debates, co-sponsored programs, and to assist the Club in maintaining its connections with the civic community. The panel’s past projects include the “Safe Youth Chicago” initiative, which focused upon the problem of urban youth violence and how the ULC and community organizations could become involved to help address this situation. 

  • The Health and Life Sciences Subcommittee sponsors public health forums on a variety of public health issues, including programs on preparedness measures against the threat of a Flu Pandemic, preventing obesity among children, addressing the problem of urban “food deserts,” and implementation of national health care reform legislation. This panel has also been at the forefront of efforts to restructure Cook County’s public health system, working closely with the independent Health & Hospital Systems Board and commissioning a report on best practices in public hospital governance to help guide reform efforts.

  • The Military Affairs Subcommittee works to improve the availability of employment opportunities and healthcare services to veterans, diversionary courts for service members, and other matters of concern to the military and veteran communities. As part of this mission, in 2012 the subcommittee presented a day-long “Symposium on Best Practices: Assisting Veterans and Military Families” that gathered together more than 150 individuals from the governmental, civilian, and non-profit sectors dedicated to assisting veterans. The subcommittee also sponsors programs featuring presentations by military officers and leaders of other civilian military support organizations. 

  • The Subcommittee on Race addresses the impact of race and racial disparity in the execution of public policy. Examples of events the subcommittee has sponsored include a review of civil rights in America on the 40th anniversary of the 1968 Kerner Commission, a forum entitled “From Harold Washington to Barack Obama: Race in Politics Then and Now,” and a program examining the impact of race on health care. 

  • The State and Local Government Subcommittee focuses on matters confronting state and local government in Illinois, including budget and pension issues, ethics in government, proposals to improve the legislative redistricting process, and campaign finance and campaign disclosure laws. 

  • The Transportation Subcommittee is monitoring progress of expansion at O’Hare Airport while scrutinizing proposals for a third airport to serve the Chicago region and for creation of high-speed rail service. The subcommittee has taken a leading role in advocating modernization of the aging rail and road infrastructure in the Chicago region, culminating in the CREATE initiative (Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency), a joint state, federal, and local program to improve freight rail infrastructure and reduce freight rail congestion.