I was awestruck by the moving op-ed from Sen. Dick Durbin, D- Ill., in the Sun-Times on the passing of former downstate Illinois union leader Ed Smith. “A good man and a genuine leader with a clear mission in life,” as Durbin put it, Smith worked in Cairo, a town that had been fraught with racial strife and poverty.

Most remarkable of his endeavors is how Smith came up with the idea to start a fund to invest union pension money, not in Wall Street, but in infrastructure projects that were both good ideas and opportunities to create good-paying union jobs.

In 2004, Durbin drove the then-state Sen. Barack Obama to visit Cairo (Obama’s first visit) and to attend a barbecue hosted by Smith, then president of the Laborers Union Headquarters.

Smith’s friends and many union members — Black and white — were at the barbecue. Why? They were there because Smith was all about fair treatment to all, as Durbin points out. The event was a formative one for Obama, so formative that Obama would later recount it with national media.

After reading Durbin’s piece I have one message for book agents: Get thee to the senator for his memoir. Capture the extraordinary experiences Durbin has had, his knowledge of remarkable leaders like Smith and his foresight to broaden the world of up and coming leaders, including Obama.

Dottie Jeffries, Hyde Park