Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thanks and best wishes, Congressman LaHood

I can barely remember a time when the name Ray LaHood was not synonymous with Central Illinois politics. As a Lincoln buff, I’ll also never forget the day I heard that Congressman LaHood, Senator Dick Durbin and an author whose Lincoln book I’d reviewed, Harold Holzer, were to co-chair the newly formed Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. It was years before the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, which is now less than two months away.

As LaHood and fellow Lincoln buffs look forward to the celebrations surrounding Lincoln’s Feb. 12 birthday, the Congressman is looking forward to a milestone in his own life – his retirement from public service in early January and, subsequently, more time with his family.

Thousands of touchpoints
LaHood has represented the people of the 18th Congressional District of Illinois in our nation’s capital for seven terms, but his public service started long before. Since the late 1970s, he’s served in a number of public roles, including as:
  • District Administrative Assistant, for Congressman Tom Railsback
  • Member of Illinois House of Representatives
  • Chief of Staff for U.S. House Minority Leader Robert Michel

Even earlier he was serving the people, working for the Rock Island Youth Services Bureau and the Bi-State Planning Commission. Although I didn’t know it until I did my research yesterday, LaHood also served as a junior high school social studies teacher for six years. It’s no wonder he’s been involved in keeping the legacy of Lincoln alive. That teacher gene never leaves, it seems, no matter where life takes one.

Lincoln lovers would be interested to know that in today’s 18th District, LaHood serves most of the same communities Lincoln served in the 7th District from 1847-1849.

Media respect well-earned
The Peoria Journal-Star, which has chronicled LaHood’s story since his early days in politics, has honored the outgoing servant with a tribute today. You can learn more about this man with Lincoln ties and his own personal legacy in these additional pieces:

While you’re at it, you might also want to listen to Q & A on C-SPAN for Brian Lamb’s interview with Congressman LaHood.

LaHood's farewell
Congressman LaHood also wrote his own farewell, which appeared as an op-ed piece on the Journal-Star website late Sunday. I find it interesting that one of the things LaHood mentions is his mentors, Railsback and Michel. He also offers words of wisdom for the Congressman-elect Aaron Schock. Schock will serve us well, I believe, but even better with LaHood passing on his words of wisdom.

Lincoln's growth, too, was enriched through his mentors - in New Salem, in law and in politics. He also made the transition from protege to mentor when he took on Billy Herndon. But, those are stories for another day. (This section added Dec. 8.)

Do you have a LaHood memory?
If so, the Journal-Star would like to hear it. You can email them at and they’ll publish highlights before Jan. 6, his final day in office. If I see that article, I’ll publish a link in my blog for those of you outside of Central Illinois. Wouldn’t it be nice if that next article contained some memories from fellow Lincoln buffs?

Lincoln buff/constituent says thanks
Congressman LaHood, thank you for your service to our country and your dedication to keeping the legacy of Lincoln alive. May the roads ahead rise up to meet you with all the joy and fulfillment you deserve. Ann

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