CHICAGO (CBS) — She has shied away from the spotlight since her husband, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, was elected mayor, but for the first time, Chicago’s first lady, Amy Rule, was taking on a major role on Thursday, speaking to world leaders in Belgium.
Rule was with a Chicago delegation at NATO headquarters in Brussels, as officials and diplomats plan for the NATO summit in Chicago in May.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine traveled to Belgium to follow the delegation and has details on Thursday’s festivities to build up excitement for those who will be visiting Chicago in two months.
Ivo Daalder, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, hosted other Brussels-based diplomats, as well as the visiting U.S. delegation, as they promoted the best Chicago has to offer as host of the summit. They brought an exhibit showing off the city’s history and hosted a mini Taste of Chicago to show off famous Chicago foods.
“Before NATO goes to Chicago, we thought it appropriate for Chicago come to NATO,” Daalder said.
Rule, who was leading the Chicago delegation, expressed her appreciation for the warm welcome they received in Belgium.
“You’ve been so welcoming and warm and I’m so looking forward to reciprocating when you come back to Chicago in May,” Rule said.
It turns out NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen already knows Chicago quite well and is fond of running along the lake.
He comes to Chicago because his son and grandchildren live in Springfield, Ill. – a fact that not even Gov. Pat Quinn knew until Thursday.
“I invited him to come to Springfield to sleep in the Governor’s Mansion, in the Lincoln Bed there, and he’s very interested in taking me up on the offer,” Quinn, in Brussels with the Illinois delegation, told Levine.
Brussels was the first lady’s coming out party, so to speak. Earlier Thursday, she’d also welcomed NATO guests to a mini Taste of Chicago, and seemed to be enjoying her new role.
Asked if she now knows how her husband Mayor Rahm Emanuel feels when he speaks to a crowd, Rule said, “I don’t think he feels the same way, but I’m thrilled. He’s a little more experienced, but I’m happy to be here and I’m happy to do it. I’m honored to be able to represent the city of Chicago.”
There was no question people at the party enjoyed the spread put out by a Chicago host committee anxious to build momentum for the upcoming summit.
They didn’t need much motivation to chow down on Chicago favorites, like deep dish pizza, cheesecake and Italian beef. However, Thursday night’s dinner, prepared by Chicago celebrity chef Stephanie Izard, was anything but typical Chicago fare.
“I think today people were eating pizza and hot dogs and stuff, and so we’re gonna go the other side of Chicago cuisine, which is all these fun restaurants with different flavors from around the world … and a lot of chefs with fun style,” Izard said.
The music on the other hand was all Chicago, from a variety of performers, including a rendition of “My Kind of Town.” And bluesman Lonnie Brooks offered a sampling of Chicago’s famous musical export.
But what Rule found during her short stay in Brussels was that the people of NATO didn’t need much coaxing to come to Chicago.
“To a person, they were so happy to be able to come to Chicago, and they’re really looking forward to it, and I think it will be a wonderful opportunity for our city,” Rule said.
The first lady seemed to weather her first assignment well. She wasn’t quite comfortable with speeches, but was a lot more at ease one-on-one; even, surprisingly, with reporters, who she’s tried hard to avoid since her husband’s election.