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Monday, August 28, 2006

Trail Report : Aug 25, 26, 27

The Zinga Team was on the road en masse and in force this weekend.

Friday we hosted Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, at a dinner at Millikin University in Decatur. SO many details to something like that—but we had our saint and soldier, Pat Herath, Events Coordinator for the Zinga campaign—and working on the Decatur end, Macon County’s dynamic team of Jim Gresham and Bruce Pillsbury. A large heartfelt thank you to the folks at Millikin and to the many men and women who saw to all the little thing. We were honored to have as M.C., Brian Byers of WSOY. All in all, we hear that Washington was impressed!

The Speaker had been traveling and giving speeches for 10 days, and could have been forgiven for being tired and brief. Instead, he lingered after the photo shoot to unwind a little, and his speech at dinner ran well past his scheduled departure time. It was a speech many of us will remember. Having seen “Mr. Speaker” informally in his district, in Henry County (a county the 17th and 14th share)—and then formally at a reception he hosted for my campaign in D.C.—I have glimpsed two aspects of the man. This particular evening, he showed us the inside: his heart.

He began to reminisce about the day the planes hit the towers: talked of being in his office when someone said “Speaker, there is something very big going on. Please turn on your TV.” He told us that his office in the Capitol commands a beautiful view of Washington, but spoke especially fondly of the portico outside, which he thinks of as “America’s front porch.”

As he watched the planes on TV and gathered in the reports, he wondered if the Capitol might also be a target. His gaze turned to that “front porch”. Eventually, the smoke would begin to rise near the Pentagon, and members of Congress would gather on the Capitol Steps to spontaneously sing “God Bless America.” Representative Ray LaHood speaks often of that moment also. It touched the leaders of our country.

As for the Speaker, he said the time soon came when he found himself alone, in a helicopter, headed for an “undisclosed location.” (Remember that the Speaker of the House is 3rd in line for the U.S. Presidency.)

He was struck again by the beauty of Washington, out there in that helicopter; and by the eeriness of seeing the nation’s Capitol through a smokey haze, much as it must have looked when the British attacked it in 1814.

And what was on his mind? How soon the Congress could get back to work on the people’s business.

Then he saluted the MANY heroes in our country—those on the front lines on 9/11—those at work now, at home and abroad, to keep the American people safe. It is, after all, government’s #1 task.

After the dinner and seeing the Speaker off for his home in northern Illinois, we stopped by Project Success, an annual Decatur-wide area event to augment funds to help kids stay in school. The fundraiser was to provide money for after-school programs and tutoring. I do love to see a community helping itself, and having this much fun in the process!

Oh, and a P.S. When I rejoined my guests at dinner at Millikin after saying goodbye and thank you to the Speaker, I was astonished to see an Andover,IL friend of ours—a wonderful man but of VERY few words—standing at the podium! He was moved by the Speaker’s talk to lead us in singing “God Bless America”—which he did with great success. Quite a moment.
Thanks, Les!

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