Adam Toledo’s death had a profound impact on me. I was running around in the Capitol when I got the video texted to me by my staff. It was noisy and pretty hectic, so I went in a corner of the Speaker’s Lobby and watched it a couple of times. It was devastating to watch it knowing that a child was about to be killed and then seeing it play out. My palms got sweaty and it was hard to contain my emotions. Two of my grandchildren live in Little Village, just a few blocks from me, so it’s personal. It brought back so many memories of young people who have died there. I’d grown numb to these deaths — it’s a survivalist role you take on. But the power of that video will be lasting.

I’m certainly not the best Catholic, but I’ve always felt that modesty is a virtue. And I think the values of humility and generosity have helped me stay on the right course through all the travails of Chicago and Illinois politics. When I lost my Illinois Senate seat, a bunch of people tried to lure me to become a lobbyist: “You can make three, four, five times more.” But that just wasn’t my calling. So I started a nonprofit and took a pay cut. In almost every job but Congress I’ve taken a pay cut. But my promotions — from the City Council to the state Senate to the Cook County Board — have allowed me to represent larger numbers of people. That’s been my reward.

 I was raised in a little village in Mexico. We didn’t have electricity, we didn’t have running water. We had a river nearby, and a walk there for water was maybe three Chicago blocks. When I read García Márquez, it reminds me of my childhood. Everybody knows each other, it’s picturesque. I cherish having grown up in a village like that.

During Harold Washington’s first year as congressman, we recognized his commitment to the immigrant community with a plaque. At the dinner, my wife and I went around checking on everybody. We got to his table and noticed he was coughing and having a hard time breathing, so we gave him some water. But he was still struggling, so we took him to the back, and I grabbed him real hard and squeezed — a Mexican-style Heimlich maneuver — and got it unstuck. He went, “Oh, man! What did you say your name was?” I told him, “Jesús.” He said, “How do you spell that?” “J-E-S-U-S.” He looked at me, grabbed me by the shoulder, and went, “Jesus, you saved my life!” When Harold died, his family asked me to give a eulogy. 

People thought I was crazy running for mayor. I was polling at like 8 percent. But I foresaw the weakening of the machine, the potential for a new coalition, and the reviving of some of the elements that elected Harold Washington. The 1 percenters were reigning, and we wanted to open things up and democratize the city. If Rahm hadn’t withheld the Laquan McDonald tape, I would have won that race. I have no doubt about it. 

When I got to Washington, I was not a big fan of Nancy Pelosi, but I’ve come to appreciate her talent and her ability and, by God, her work ethic. We were on a flight back from Central America and someone asked her, “How do you unwind?” She said, “Rest is rust.” I think that’s her mantra.

No shavers, no electric trimmers, no machinery on my mustache. Every lock is cut individually with small scissors.

Little Village remains our community of choice. We have relatives here, we have neighbors and friends — people who really let you appreciate the essence of the working class. If I’m out cutting the grass or trying to plant some flowers, people will pull up with music blasting in their car. “Tengo una pregunta” — “I have a question.” And most of the time that leads to quite a few questions. But I like it. I help them get their papers. I help them become citizens. I help them buy their first house. It makes a big difference in their lives.