In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on our country, patriotism and pride is evident almost everywhere you turn, with flag-draped porches, lapel pins, window signs and car antenna adorned with the red, white and blue. The day after, at a point when Americans realized our land of the free would never be the same again, the citizens of this land craved reassurance. Tell us it will be better. Convince us we’ll be safe. Promise us we’ll get through this. We wanted not only to be told, but needed to believe, too. We desperately craved LEADERSHIP—and we got it.
For many, the jury was out on President George W. Bush before the horrible events of September 11. At a most perilous time, the country needed to trust its leader, to know that his carefully chosen words could be believed. It needed a person of character and integrity to help unite the people of the United States. And by all accounts, President Bush has delivered. As noted in the Wall Street Journal, "Sometimes historians wonder whether great leaders are made by the crises they confront, or whether they would be great leaders even in untroubled times. More often than not, real leadership flourishes when faced with imminent threats and dangers." Such is the case with this President, who thus far, is showing tremendous resolve under intense pressure.
The old adage "you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone" has been especially evident in the stories that have emerged since the attacks. The firefighters and public safety professionals who rescued people from the burning twin towers. Building tenants who wouldn’t leave without first attending to a colleague. The medical personnel who adeptly handled a situation for which they could not truly prepare. The passengers of United Flight 93 who, by most accounts, somehow kept their hijacked flight from slamming into the Capitol Building or White House, saving thousands of lives on the ground. The family members of those passengers who kept them calm during phone conversations, offered crucial information about the earlier plane crashes, and calm encouragement to take matters into their own hands. It is truly unfortunate that it often takes tragedy and loss for us to realize what unique human beings we are.
And perhaps at no time have national and local events converged to even further shatter our sense of well being and security. Just when we were finally able to tear ourselves away from the ever present media coverage of the Attack on America, when the memorial services for fallen New York City police and firefighters had just begun, we were stunned by the news of the tragic shooting death of Peoria Policeman Jim Faulkner, and our emotions bubbled once again. Five children and a loving wife lost their leader, and a community lost one too. Night in and night out Jim Faulkner took on the worst of the worst on Peoria’s streets, to rid the community of drugs and crime. Alone in his squad car after midnight in neighborhoods most of us have never seen even in daylight. A man who truly loved his profession and loved his community and was senselessly taken well before his time. Again, a leader who was anonymous to the community at large, until, as one of his sons said, "Daddy made the front page of the paper."
In this issue, we’re proud to announce our 8th annual list of Peoria’s 40 Leaders under Forty. Congratulations to these young men and women who are being recognized for their efforts to make the Peoria area a better place to live and do business. This year’s roster is stronger than ever, with leaders from nearly every segment of Peoria’s economic mix—from non-profits to manufacturing—each of them with their own unique contributions and talents. Men and women who believe in themselves and believe in the strength and future of this community. We only hope that it won’t take such extreme difficulties for these leaders to make their lasting mark.
But it is an ominous time indeed to be a leader. Even before September 11th we were experiencing a slowing economy and waning consumer confidence. The attacks only further eroded a crumbling American psyche. During the past few weeks, however, we’ve seen leadership in action, from our President to young grade schoolers, who have united in spirit and volunteered generously with their finances, time, expertise and creativity to show the world our strength lies in our people. We’ll need this crop of young leaders to join with those we’ve recognized in the past and others yet to be named, to help us weather the storm and emerge the better for it.
As Caterpillar stated in a message to Summit readers, "New leaders are coming to the forefront every day—in the business world and elsewhere. We salute all of them because we know how important they are to all of us. It’s a good thing." IBI