At a special ceremony in the U.S. Capitol building on June 13th, House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer received the National Bipartisan Leadership Award from Bradley University’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service (IPL). The ceremony, which was covered by national media, began with a video entitled “A Legacy of Principled Leadership,” highlighting public servants with strong ties to the Peoria area who have risen to national prominence and model the bipartisan, ethical and civil leadership IPL seeks to promote.

In her opening remarks, Bradley President Joanne Glasser proudly touted the university’s rich legacy of developing principled, ethical leaders. From former House Minority Leader Bob Michel to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to Congressman Aaron Schock, a Bradley alumnus has represented central Illinois in Congress with the highest distinction since 1957—for 54 years and counting. In lauding Congressman Hoyer’s 30-year congressional career, which has modeled ethical and bipartisan leadership, President Glasser stated, “It is particularly appropriate for Bradley and our Institute for Principled Leadership to recognize a statesman who has distinguished himself for seeing past party labels and parochial positions with this award.”

Former Congressman Bob Michel, Secretary LaHood and Congressman Schock, who served with Congressman Hoyer at different stages of his congressional career, each spoke passionately about their fondness and respect for their friend on the other side of the political aisle. Michel, who served in Congress for 38 years, reminisced about the institution of Congress and the “good ol’ days” when members treated each other with much more civility, and praised Congressman Hoyer for being willing to find bipartisan common ground for the good of the country.

Secretary LaHood thanked Congressman Hoyer for attending and encouraging other Democratic members to attend the congressional civility retreats he co-chaired when he served in Congress. LaHood also noted that the Obama Administration sees Congressman Hoyer has the key linchpin in moving bipartisan legislation through the U.S. House of Representatives. As the youngest member of the 111th Congress, Congressman Schock spoke about how then-Majority Leader Hoyer quickly extended a bipartisan hand of friendship and invited him, a freshman Republican, to attend a trade mission trip to Columbia, something of particular interest to Caterpillar and central Illinois farmers.

Congressman Hoyer graciously accepted the award and spoke glowingly of the three members from the 18th District, with whom he had the privilege of serving in the House. “I have served with no more principled, no warmer, no more patriotic, no more decent, no more wonderful human being…than Bob Michel.” He went on to state that “if you talk now to Democrats and Republicans in the House and ask them who they think is one of the best members of President Obama’s cabinet, they will respond, ‘Ray LaHood.’” Hoyer admitted campaigning against the “young whippersnapper,” Aaron Schock, but said that since he came to Congress, he has found Schock to be “emblematic of his predecessors: somebody who cares about substance, who cares about positive relationships, and who cares about country first, party second…and he has become a good friend of mine.”

In his closing remarks, Congressman Hoyer stated, “So, I accept this award at a time when principled bipartisan leadership is absolutely essential and, unfortunately, not very present…I would hope that in the coming days we will come together, reason together…and compromise…Our country’s problems will not wait simply for us to gain partisan advantage.” He pledged to use his Democratic leadership position to “play a role in carrying out what you honor me for today…principled bipartisan leadership.”

The ceremony was attended by Bradley students who were interning in Washington, D.C., for the summer; Bradley alumni from the area; and central Illinoisans who were attending Congressman Schock’s Washington, D.C. fly-in. Collectively, we felt great pride in the legacy of principled leaders who have served central Illinois in Congress. And, we felt for a brief moment that the fresh winds of civility, bipartisanship and mutual respect had once again blown through the halls of the U.S. Capitol. iBi