WHEATON – Hundreds of people gathered Jan. 26 to see the district swearing-in ceremony for U.S. Rep. Sean Casten, D-Downers Grove, in the auditorium of the DuPage County JTK Administration Building in Wheaton.
Casten, a scientist and businessman, defeated Peter Roskam in the Nov. 6, 2018, election for the 6th Congressional District, which includes parts of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Kane and McHenry counties. The last Democrat to hold the seat was George W. Collins, who was killed in a plane crash while in office.
Casten and the other members of the 116th Congress were sworn in on Jan. 3 in Washington, D.C.
McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks and 18th Circuit Court Judge Linda Davenport made remarks and introduced elected officials at the event. They said bipartisanship is an important value to commit to in order to bring the country together.
“We’re so happy for you, and we know that you will accomplish great things because you understand how important it is to work together to get things done,” Franks said. “It’s a challenge, especially in this day and age when more and more things are so politically charged and you get fewer and fewer opportunities to hang up politics at the door and come together as Americans. But Sean, I know you’re up to the challenge.”
Davenport said Americans are asking for a commitment to bring diversity and bipartisanship back to government.
“We all love our party. We are Democrats. We are Republicans. But we are first Americans, no matter what,” Davenport said.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin gave the keynote address. After thanking Casten’s family, Durbin spoke of issues the country has been facing, including the government shutdown that had put thousands of federal employees, including air traffic controllers, on furlough.
Durbin asked that a union group of air traffic controllers from northern Illinois stand for recognition, and other event attendees gave them a standing ovation.
Toby Hauck, president of the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center union, said the group thought its attendance at the event would be a good opportunity to support Casten and make sure he has the necessary information for policy-making decisions.
“That was overwhelming,” Hauck said about the show of support the air traffic controllers received.
He said air traffic controllers usually “work behind the scenes” to keep the American public safe.
Durbin echoed the message of the importance of bipartisanship and wrapped up his remarks by speaking of the momentousness of joining Congress.
“It’s an exciting moment in your life to be a new member of Congress, a new member of the U.S. House of Representatives,” Durbin said. “Dazzled by all these new people behind you coming from all over the United States who are joining you in governing this country. It’s a rare experiment, this democracy of ours, and it’s one that has served us well for a long, long period of time.
“Today we gather for a celebration. Tomorrow we gather with our eyes focused on the future and what we can do to make DuPage County a better place to live, Illinois a better state, and the United States of America continue to be, with God’s blessing, the greatest nation on earth.”
After a music interlude, Casten took the oath of office, which was administered by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Durkin.
“The survival of our nation depends on nothing so much as our willingness to be bound by words,” Casten said. “Our founders, I think, in their wisdom recognized that that was a brave, courageous and maybe naive idea. Kind of crazy. It is wildly at odds with how we live the rest of our lives.”
He said that when not everyone agrees on the exact meaning of the words of the Constitution, the shared commitment comes down to freedom and equality, which is in the first sentence of the preamble. Casten said that commitment to equal access to freedom necessitates action on climate change and universal health care.
He asked that everyone in the audience join him in taking an oath to the Constitution and commit to protect everyone’s right to freedom and equality.
“There is nothing that obligates anyone in this room to willingly assent to the rule of law,” Casten said. “The nation depends not on the governors but on the consent of the governed. If we lose that, we lose everything.”