A Publication of WTVP

From June 17th through 20th, 160 business and community leaders from central Illinois were treated to Congressman Ray LaHood’s final Washington, D.C. Fly-In. This trip was chiefly organized by the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce, who had 86 attendees as well as the Chambers from Jacksonville, Springfield, Decatur and Quincy. The congressman and his top-notch staff did another amazing job of putting together a star-studded cast of national politicians, journalists, political pundits and government officials to speak to the group.

The list of speakers included Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, Senators Chuck Hagel and Dick Durbin, CIA Director General Michael Hayden, journalist David Broder, and many other notable speakers. One common theme that emerged from this diverse group of political insiders is how sorely Congressman Ray LaHood will be missed in Washington.

Political commentator Mark Shields, who had just returned from Tim Russert’s memorial service, said this: “Tim Russert embodied civility, and that is what Ray LaHood embodies…If more members of Congress were like Ray LaHood, there would be less blood in the streets of Washington, D.C., and the journalism field would be in a world of hurt because the media thrives on scandal and conflict.”

Charlie Cook, one of the nation’s leading political analysts, told the group, “Congress will not be the same without him…Ray LaHood is widely respected and liked by both sides of the political aisle.” Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. spoke of the great admiration he has for LaHood’s extraordinary leadership. Speaker Pelosi said, “Ray LaHood has been a source of bipartisanship and civility, and he will be sorely missed in Congress.” Thirty-three-year-old Congressman Adam Putnam complimented LaHood on the great role model he has been for younger members of Congress.

Another lasting impression that was made on the group from central Illinois was the high quality and dedication of those serving as public servants in Washington, D.C. Leslie McKnight, neighborhood development manager for the City of Peoria, “was inspired by the speakers’ candidness, sincerity and dedication to ensure America’s freedom and democracy.” Mary Pille, CEO and president of the Employers’ Association, was thankful for the rare opportunity to hear from a multitude of talented national leaders and pundits in a small group setting.

Roberta Parks, chief operating officer for the Peoria Chamber, aptly summed up the whole experience this way: “Over Ray’s tenure in office, literally hundreds of people from Peoria and central Illinois have had a degree of access to key policy makers in our country that is hard to imagine…And every year when we return, I have participants comment to me on just how highly regarded our congressman is by people from both sides of the political aisle.”

Thank you, Congressman LaHood, for 14 years of great Washington, D.C. fly-ins and for serving the 18th Congressional District and our country with integrity, civility and bipartisan leadership. iBi