LaHood named Distinguished Fellow at IPL, Bradley University

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Ray LaHood, who served on President Barack Obama's cabinet after 14 years representing Peoria in Congress, was named the first Honorary Senior Distinguished Fellow for the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University.

LaHood, who recently stepped down as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, was the first Bradley graduate and first Peoria native to serve on a presidential cabinet.

As Senior Distinguished Fellow LaHood will participate in national public policy symposiums on Bradley's campus and guest lecture to Bradley students.

"I am excited and proud to be associated with the work the Institute is doing at Bradley University," said LaHood, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in education and sociology from Bradley in 1971 and served on the Bradley Board of Trustees from 1999-2006. "I consider this a really great honor, to be affiliated with my alma mater and with the Institute. I believe in what they are doing there," he said.

LaHood says he has a deep fondness for Bradley, which is where he met his wife Kathy, and believes the Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley "can inspire a new generation of public service leaders to use a bipartisan and collaborative approach to resolving America's toughest issues."

He added that public service can be a notable profession worthy of the best and brightest graduates. That is why he was interested when Brad McMillan, executive director of the IPL who was LaHood's chief of staff when he was in Congress, approached him about being involved after leaving the Department of Transportation.

LaHood, a native of Peoria, was U.S. Representative from the 18th District from 1994 through 2008 when he chose not to seek re-election. He became Secretary of Transportation under President Obama in 2009. The only Republican in the Obama cabinet, he led a 60,000-employee agency that regulates American aviation, highways, railroads, public transit, seaways, traffic safety and pipelines, among other modes of transportation.

"The outstanding 36 year public service career of former Secretary Ray LaHood embodies the kind of principled leadership Bradley University seeks to develop in our students as they become the next generation of public service leaders," said Bradley University President Joanne Glasser.

Brad McMillan, executive director of IPL said, "Ray LaHood is the first Bradley alumnus asked to serve in a President's cabinet. He served with great distinction in the U.S. Congress for 14 years and his experiences in the public service arena will be of great benefit to Bradley students."

LaHood was known in Washington for providing bipartisan leadership on issues. President Obama noted that, as well, when he said during a news conference that "Ray LaHood is an outstanding public servant who is a role model for the bipartisan leadership America so desperately needs."

LaHood modeled his career after some central Illinois leaders who he felt embodied that spirit of bipartisanship. "I doubt when I graduated from Spalding (High School) that very many people knew who Ray LaHood even was. But it has been my ability to work with people in a bipartisan manner that has been the key to my successful career," he said.

He said the people of central Illinois should be proud that we have sent so many great officials to Washington and Springfield who are willing to work across party lines and compromise. "Bipartisanship is part of the rich political history of this region going back to Lincoln, who got Congress to pass Emancipation. Without U.S. Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen, the Civil Rights Act never could've happened. And we can't forget Bob Michel, who worked with Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton," LaHood said.

The Dirksen Congressional Center called LaHood's career one of distinction especially giving credit to his parliamentary knowledge and fair demeanor, citing one of the hallmarks of his career in Congress as his ability to bring a varied group of people together to work for the good of a community, the State, or on a particular issue. LaHood co-founded the Bipartisan Congressional Retreat, was a leader among the members of the Illinois Congressional delegation on issues important to the State, and convened meetings of local State legislators and elected officials to work on the priorities of local communities.

The Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service at Bradley University promotes a return to statesmanship at all levels of government. Its goal is to become a Midwestern think tank advocating for a bipartisan leadership approach to resolve America's most pressing problems.

LaHood said he is still working to finalize the next chapter of his life. He is writing a book about his career and has found a publisher, with co-author Frank Mackaman, director of the Dirksen Center.

"I intend to stay busy. We'll be splitting our time between Peoria and Washington," he said.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).