It’s November again…how time flies! Sixteen years ago, we introduced the first class of 40 Leaders Under Forty to central Illinois. In 2009, it’s especially good to know that the acknowledgement and recognition of leadership continues unabated—even in times of economic and political uncertainty.
This recognition is a positive reminder of the robust pool of leaders we continue to nurture right here. Amidst the doom and gloom, CNN/Money ranked the Peoria area as the fifth-best midsized city and 15th best overall city in which to launch a small business. We have been saying this for years—and now the national media has taken notice. This could not have happened without the steady leadership of our business community and its rising young professionals.
Speaking of which, The Young Professionals Organization of Greater Peoria (YPO) has picked up steam over the last few years. Quite a few of this year’s winners are involved in this group of 20- and 30-something professionals, with a mutual interest in networking, community involvement, and professional development. In August, 40 Leaders Under Forty sponsored a YPO social event that made apparent the link between these two groups.
Personally, I’ve witnessed a wide range of leadership in action this year. It was an unforgettable experience to shake hands with President Obama when he spoke at Caterpillar earlier this year. On a visit to Washington DC, I met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood—and as an advisory board member of the Institute for Principled Leadership at Bradley University, I can say how proud we are that its inaugural National Bipartisan Leadership Award went to one of our own.
Congressman Aaron Schock (40 Leaders Class of 2004) has taken DC by storm this year, and State Rep. Jehan Gordon is among this year’s class of leaders. As always, the tireless commitment of all of our elected officials is to be commended.
My experience this summer at the Air National Guard Business and Industry Days—thank you, Col. William P. Robertson (Class of ‘99)—provided insight into the unambiguous leadership qualities of our military personnel. Just a few weeks ago, on a tour of the Pentagon, I spotted a portrait of the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Shalikashvili, who attended Peoria High School and Bradley University, and was reminded again of this legacy. And, of course, last year’s renaming of Peoria’s airport after our own General Wayne A. Downing was an appropriate gesture. As we continue to fight two wars, we pray for the safety of our soldier-leaders overseas.
Of course, we cannot forget our leaders in business, education and the not-for-profit sector, whose stories we chronicle in this magazine, month in and month out. As always, our honorees come from many different walks of life. In tough times, they have been challenged to do more with less, learn new skills and adapt to change. It is their leadership—and the leadership of countless other unrecognized individuals—that will help us navigate these waters of uncertainty. iBi