With this issue, we introduce the latest class of 40 Leaders Under Forty. Like those in the previous 10 classes, these young people bring contributions that paint a bright future for our area.
In terms of where they work, the 40 comprise a diverse group. Nonetheless, there are some common threads worth noting.
- Pride of geography-they like being in central Illinois.
- A propensity to volunteer-from human services causes to cultural organizations, they spend a large amount of their spare time improving the community.
- Youth-oriented focus-they’ve assumed roles as mentors and role models for those they come in contact with.
I can’t help but think the qualities this group exudes are found in one person-Congressman Ray LaHood. We publish this list of 40 each year to recognize contributions individuals make that we may not appreciate as well as we should. And when we talk about contributions to the community, we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize Ray LaHood.
As business leaders, it’s easy to take for granted the range and depth of services a high-caliber congressman can bring to his district. In the coming campaign, I’m sure Ray LaHood will talk in depth about issues that touch us all-issues like health insurance reform, prescription drugs, and elimination of the inheritance tax.
But there’s so much more.
Ray LaHood knows the issues in his 20-county district. He talks frequently-at least quarterly with local state legislators-with the players in the district and then knows where to go for funding and assistance. Think of an issue important to us, and it’s a sure bet Ray LaHood is working on it.
- Illinois River-from making it cleaner to helping smaller towns downriver develop their riverfronts.
- Peoria Regional Museum-consensus building at its finest.
- Ag Research Center-it remains on the cutting edge of research thanks in large part to Ray LaHood’s attention.
- Heartland Community Health Clinic-its priceless, yet all-too-often overlooked, contribution to the area continues because of Ray LaHood’s concern and the federal funding he secures.
- Transportation-from the Peoria-to-Macomb highway to airports in Peoria, Decatur, Springfield, and Quincy.
- Habitat for Humanity-three homes occupied and a fourth underway. Ray LaHood had a hand in organizing and constructing them all.
This list is far from complete. Nonetheless, these brief mentions demonstrate the broad outlook he brings. He truly represents the whole landscape.
The Journal Star noted recently that "It is quite uncommon for any congressman to be as involved in local issues as LaHood is here. Peoria is better for it."
We can all agree.
In central Illinois, we know him as a voice of reason and knowledge. The same is true in Washington-but add civility to that list. A recent national article that mentioned Ray LaHood really struck me. It talked about the strong-handed tactics House Republican leaders are using against Democrats and their own party members who dare oppose them. Interviewed after a dispute between the two parties, he was quoted as saying: "It’s the way (Democrats) treated us when we were in the minority. We’re in the majority party. We need to be bigger than our egos. We need to be adults."
A good part of Ray LaHood’s contribution comes from his seniority in the House of Representatives. But that’s often a two-edged sword. The press of committee assignments and more meetings can keep a congressman in Washington. Not so with Ray LaHood. Ray LaHood is a listener and a doer. We couldn’t ask for any more. IBI