Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday offered Chicago area residents a new and compelling reason to welcome a NATO summit many are dreading as a giant inconvenience: a place in world history.
No matter what happens with the thousands of demonstrators on the streets of Chicago outside McCormick Place, serious foreign policy business will be conducted inside the convention center, he said.
“NATO will be now deciding how to de-emphasize its involvement, its footprint in Afghanistan and how to wind down its presence. It will be known as the ‘Chicago Accords,’ basically,” the mayor said.
“That’s significant. Something that started post-9/11 will now become de-emphasized and the NATO kind of presence as it dealt with Afghanistan will now be on the downward slop — not an upward slope. And that is going to be agreed to here.”
Emanuel noted that sixty world leaders and foreign ministers are coming to Chicago, many of them for the first time. Roughly 2,500 members of the international press, who are coming to cover the summit, may never have been here, either.
“They get to New York or [Washington] D.C. and that’s their experience of America. They’re [now] gonna see the most American of American cities,” the mayor said.
“That exposure highlights this great metropolitan international city and the investments and economic opportunity and job growth that comes with it….A lot of our economy depends on that type of investment and they see a city that they otherwise had only read about or had one image on.”
As the NATO summit draws near, Emanuel has become increasingly defensive about an event that many Chicagoans view as a giant headache.
For months, he described the summit as a “minor inconvenience” that’s worth the pain to showcase Chicago on the world stage. He called it the Olympics without the athletes.
But after the U.S. Secret Service disclosed plans to close three major expressways, lakefront museums and countless roads to protect President Barack Obama and other world leaders, the mayor acknowledged that it was a whole lot more than a “minor inconvenience.”
Instead, he urged Chicagoans to view the summit in the context of other, longer inconveniences.
“The Green Line was shut down for two years. How long has Congress [Parkway] been under work? How long has Wacker [Drive] been under construction?…This is two days vs. five years. Can you spell the word perspective?” he told the Chicago Sun-Times during an interview on his first year in office.
“I’m sensitive to this. I want to be sensitive to this…For businesses and residents in certain parts, it will have its challenges. But, I want people to remember, it’s two days.”