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The three C’s of political leadership

Published: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 5:56 p.m. CDT
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John Quigley

Compromise.

Civility.

Compassion.

In the opinion of former two-term Illinois Gov. and self-described Republican moderate Jim Edgar, that trio of Cs is what's sadly missing from the world of American politics and the everyday life of elected officials at too many levels of government.

Edgar shared his insights on political leadership while lunching with representatives from nearly 50 chambers of commerce from across the state at the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's annual Employer Action Day in Springfield on May 20. Before speaking, Edgar walked around the conference room at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel to introduce himself to attendees, one by one.

Illinois Chamber President and CEO Doug Whitley jokingly introduced Edgar – who appointed Whitley, then-president of the Taxpayers Federation of Illinois, as his director of Illinois' Department of Revenue to start his first term in 1991 – as Illinois' last former governor not convicted of misconduct and sent to prison.

Before his election as a state representative in 1976, Edgar served on the staff of former Illinois Sen. Leader William Russell Arrington, whom he described as the Illinois legislature's power-wielding forerunner to current House Speaker Michael Madigan. In a 2007 newspaper story, Madigan himself credits Arrington as being "the father of the modern General Assembly."

Edgar then shared the story of how Arrington – despite his tax-opposing stances both personally and politically – spent his legislature-controlling party's capital to support Republican Gov. Richard Ogilvie's push to enact the state's first income tax in 1971. Arrington did so because he believed the legislation served in the best interest of both Illinois and its residents.

Two years later, Democrats gained control of the General Assembly behind Gov. Dan Walker and Arrington retired from public office.

When the former Secretary of State became governor, Illinois was facing a fiscal crisis. While Republicans controlled both the House (behind Elmhurst's Lee Daniels) and Senate, Edgar still worked closely with Madigan-led Democrats to eliminate the backlog of the state's unpaid bills, reduce the size of state government and build up a budget surplus. In addition, he backed legislation that changed the way Illinois schools are funded and overhauled the state's child welfare system.

Reach common ground.

Avoid personal attacks.

Help people.

Simply put, the role of elected officials is to solve problems, not to play politics.

John Quigley is president and CEO of the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce

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