Welcome to Peoria Magazine’s November edition, in which we celebrate at least 40 reasons to be optimistic about the future of central Illinois.
In compiling the stories for this annual 40 Under Forty issue, I stumbled into a painful self-realization: Indeed, as I recall myself at their ages, it was all I could do to dress myself properly and get to work on time. So I must say I came away impressed by – and more than a little envious of – this crop of young leaders and all they have accomplished in such a short time.
They are saving lives and searching for cures, defending our nation abroad and fighting injustice and inequality at home, sheltering the homeless and foster-parenting vulnerable children, starting new companies and building a skyline, exploring the universe and protecting the environment, governing and giving back to their communities, often with little fanfare.
Meanwhile, it is to marvel at their discipline and time-management talents as they juggle work demands with family obligations, further education and community service. Referring to them as up-and-comers is selling them short. They’ve already arrived. Perhaps it’s time to bust out the capes and cast our own central Illinois superhero movie.
We’d like to say it’s easy to pick 40. It isn’t, which is why we outsource that job to a top-secret committee of select Selectors who review the nominations and whittle those to the names you’ll learn about in the pages to follow. We did place a bit more emphasis this year on the contributions people make outside their workplaces. It’s an impressive group.
Be encouraged. Be inspired.
Take inspiration, as well, from the stories of the 95 new Americans of choice who recently took their oaths of citizenship. That naturalization ceremony was presided over by U.S. District Judge James Shadid, who shared his own immigrant family’s voyage-to-America tale. His grandparents, Phillip and Adeebi Shadid, were married in 1919 in the nation known today as Lebanon – they were considered Syrian, then — and for their honeymoon boarded a boat to America.
In 1930, Phillip Shadid swore his allegiance to the United States, the documented proof of which now hangs in the office of his grandson, the federal judge now administering those same oaths to others. Call it a full-circle phenomenon. Those newly minted American Shadids from nearly a century ago would produce nine children and 33 grandchildren who’d go on to serve their communities and adopted country as police officers and laborers and business owners, as doctors and lawyers and even a state senator – Jim’s father, George Shadid – who in Springfield would befriend a future U.S. president, Barack Obama.
That’s why Judge Shadid can share the truth he’s lived that the decision of these 95 new Americans “will affect your family, your friends, all of us, in more ways than you can imagine.” And it’s why he can say that “if my grandfather were here today, he would say to me that no matter the law I’ve learned, or the books I’ve read, or the titles I have obtained, I already hold the highest office in the land: the Office of Citizen.”
It is a month of thanksgiving. We here at Peoria Magazine are thankful that we can have hope in our collective future, confident that our 40 view this moment in their lives as less a pinnacle than a prelude to more great things to come. Go forth and lead.