Despite all the angst at the Statehouse over the state budget and ethics, elements of the post-Rod Blagojevich honeymoon between Springfield and Gov. Pat Quinn remain in evidence. The first Governor’s Prayer Breakfast attended Wednesday by Quinn since he took over his current office was a place where just being a regular person with respect for the venue went a long way to make people glad that a page in Illinois history has turned.
Despite all the angst at the Statehouse over the state budget and ethics, elements of the post-Rod Blagojevich honeymoon between Springfield and Gov. Pat Quinn remain in evidence.
The first Governor’s Prayer Breakfast attended Wednesday by Quinn since he took over his current office was a place where just being a regular person with respect for the venue went a long way to make people glad that a page in Illinois history has turned.
The fact that Quinn arrived 10 minutes early to the Crowne Plaza for the 47th annual breakfast was contrast enough. But Quinn did more, by taking time to introduce family members of nine fallen servicemen his office had invited to the event.
During his years as lieutenant governor, Quinn often attended funerals of those killed overseas.
“There are no words in the English language to relieve the pain of losing someone you have known from the day they were born,” Quinn said Wednesday. “I think it is important today, on this day of prayer, that we acknowledge our permanent debt of gratitude to these young men and women. ... Our faith teaches us that we will see them again and we will thank them for their lives of service.”
Sally and Russell Nation of Hillsboro were among those Quinn asked to stand. They are the mother and stepfather of Army Cpl. Ryan Buckley, who was 21 when killed in Baghdad on June 23, 2006. He was a gunner on a Humvee hit by a roadside bomb.
Sally Nation told me she’s not a political person, but noted that Quinn spoke at her son’s funeral, and said the prayer breakfast — her first — was something she felt good about attending.
“The only thing that’s gotten me through all this is my belief in God,” she said.
Russell Nation said he considers Quinn “a very good advocate of … fallen soldiers and families.”
The contrast of Quinn to the insincere Blagojevich was easy to see.
In 2004, Blagojevich skipped the Springfield event because he needed to talk with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley about a gambling proposal. Last year, Blagojevich arrived 15 minutes late, gave a short speech, and left before the keynote speaker delivered his address.
Wednesday’s keynoter was Mack Strong, who played football for the Seattle Seahawks, was in a couple of Pro Bowl games and has been involved in charity work since his retirement from the NFL.
“It was funny,” Strong told the crowd later as he began his address. “When we got here, we met in a little room on the side, and all the different elected officials came in and said, ‘Oh, governor, you’re here.’ They seemed to be shocked by that. That must be some kind of inside joke.”
The crowd sure got the meaning.
State Rep. Rich Brauer, R-Petersburg, who gave the benediction, started it by asking the crowd, “Isn’t it refreshing to have a governor that comes down, interested in spending a morning of prayer with us, and also his special efforts to recognize the appearance of the Gold Star recipients?”
Quinn called the 47 years of the event “a proud and important tradition to maintain,” adding, “As long as I’m governor, I intend to be here and to participate fully in the opportunity to pray to God.”
Quinn backs a Madigan
Quinn, of course, will need help of some folks closer to home as he tries to enact his budget this month — and important players include legislative leaders.
It could just be coincidence, but a key player in the life of House Speaker MICHAEL MADIGAN, D-Chicago — his wife, Shirley — was reappointed this week by Quinn to her longtime role as chairwoman of the Illinois Arts Council.
Quinn filed two letters with the secretary of state’s office Tuesday — one withdrawing Shirley Madigan’s 2007 four-year appointment from Blagojevich, and another making a new four-year appointment, through July 1, 2013. The Arts Council supports local arts programs through grants.
The appointment was not part of a deal between Speaker Madigan and the governor, Quinn spokeswoman Marlena Jentz said.
“The governor looks forward to Shirley Madigan’s continued leadership on the Arts Council,” Jentz said. “He wanted to ensure that she could continue to serve on the council, which brings more public awareness to the arts throughout the state.”
Terry Scrogum, executive director of the Arts Council, noted that Shirley Madigan has been on the council for more than 30 years, and its chairman most of that time.
“From my understanding, Mrs. Madigan met with the governor soon after he was sworn in,” Scrogum said. Following tradition, he added, she offered her resignation, and he understands Quinn indicated then he wanted her to stay on.
He also noted that meeting was “long before” recent legislation was introduced by the speaker to have many Blagojevich and George Ryan appointees dismissed. The Arts Council would not be affected by the proposed legislation, as written.
Shirley Madigan is, of course, also mother of Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
“Independent of who her relatives are, it’s well known that Shirley has been a tireless advocate for the arts for over three decades,” Scrogum said.
Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at (217) 788-1540 or email@example.com.