A Publication of WTVP

We are living in extraordinary times. As if the aftermath of 9/11 and the specters of war, terrorism and natural disaster had not already shattered our sense of security, this country now faces the greatest set of economic challenges to hit society since the Great Depression.

Certainly, this is not “business as usual”—the lightning-speed spread of technology and the rise of globalization have joined forces to ensure that fact. Witness how quickly the economic calamity migrated from U.S. subprime mortgages into a worldwide whirlwind of financial chaos. More and more, we’re all in this together—in what sometimes feels like a vast, international reality show set to the ever-increasing tempo of the 24-hour news cycle.

No one prepared us for this world. And as we watch it change so dramatically right before our eyes, we are uncertain, nervous and a bit fearful. As I write this, the lead story on reads: “3 of 4 Americans scared about U.S. direction.” Such extraordinary times cry out for extraordinary leadership.

One thing that has been consistent in central Illinois is the strength of our young leaders. Each year for the past 15 years, iBi has recognized extraordinary leadership in our own backyard through our annual celebration of 40 Leaders Under Forty. Six hundred young leaders have now passed through the ranks, and I’ve watched as they have continued to shape the identity of the Peoria area and enhance the quality of our communities.

We again received more than 100 nominations this year, a fact which speaks to the depth of the talent pool here in central Illinois. Each year, it seems it becomes more and more difficult to narrow down the list to a mere 40 individuals.

Take the time to read over the many accomplishments of the class of 2008—marvel at how much they have done already—and just imagine what lies ahead. You will feel the pride of living in a community which produces leaders of this caliber.

By the time you read this, the presidential election—this ultimate test of leadership—will (finally) have drawn to a close. The winner will have an enormous mission ahead of him and the weight of an unsettled nation—and world—on his shoulders. Whoever prevails, whether our preferred candidate or not, we wish him well in the challenges to come, and we pray that he will be up to the task.

But while the man—or, someday, woman—in the Oval Office sets the tone for leadership on a national scale, the real work of this country is done at the local level. The leaders who make the most impact on our day-to-day lives are the teachers, police officers, firemen and physicians. They are the entrepreneurs and small business owners, the mayors and council people, the engineers and architects, the mentors, coaches and volunteers. They are the ones who lead by example and give of themselves for the greater good. They are our 40 Leaders, and they are who we celebrate.