Last month, the Dirksen Congressional Center moved into a wonderful new facility in Pekin, a facility that will help further the study of Congressional leadership. While attending the grand opening festivities, I was struck, as I often am, by the legacy of leadership that’s sprung from the dark, fertile soil of central Illinois.
The Dirksen Center is home to much information on three people who were elected leaders of their political party within the Congressional body in which they served: Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, Senate Majority Leader Scott Lucas, and House Minority Leader Bob Michel. Dirksen and Lucas also served in the House. The districts these three leaders represented in the House also contained areas once represented in Congress by Abraham Lincoln. It’s incredible to think these leaders came from communities a few miles apart from each other. I can’t think of another Congressional District in the country that’s been the home to so many leaders, and I can’t think of another community as blessed as ours with people who step forward to serve their fellow citizens.
As we celebrate the accomplishments of 40 of our area’s brightest young leaders in this issue, I’d urge everyone to visit this great facility to learn more about some of our area’s greatest leaders. The inspiration of our area’s next generation of leaders could certainly come from reflection on the actions of those who’ve been leaders of our past.
Leadership is a trait that’s often difficult to quantify, but it’s something we’re all aware of when we see it in action. There are those who lead by example, leaders who listen, those who lead through words, and those said to be "quiet" leaders. Leaders can be old, leaders can be young, and leaders are of all races and both genders. There are those said to be everyday leaders, as well as leaders who rise to the occasion.
Even though we have types of leaders that seem to be in conflict, there’s one thing that binds all leaders together: an ability to guide people in the direction of a worthy purpose or cause. A political leader, an accomplished businessman, someone who advocates for social justice, or a star sports figure all have an innate talent for judging right and wrong and leading people through difficult circumstances. One only needs to look at history to find ample evidence of people who, when faced with difficult events, were able to make decisions later viewed as the hallmarks of leadership.
I salute the latest honorees of the 40 Leaders Under Forty award, and I’m proud we have so many young people who take leadership roles in an effort to make our area a wonderful place to live. Your accomplishments are many, and our community is thankful for your commitment to stepping forward into leadership positions.
I urge you, though, to rest not on your accolades, but to continue your efforts and to help cultivate future honorees of this prestigious award. You’re a group of varied and important talents, and your community will look to you for years to come to provide leadership. IBI