One test of leaders' greatness, says presidential historian Michael Beschloss, is how much they live on in the minds and hearts of future generations.
"Every American has a relationship with Lincoln," Beschloss says, and every child knows that Lincoln came from the wilderness and emerged an extraordinary leader.
One by one, Illinois leaders spoke glowingly of our 16th president at the February 12 groundbreaking for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. With many state and federal dignitaries on hand, I was disappointed that U.S. Sen. Richard Durbin could not be there due to a death in his family. For years, when he was a congressman from Springfield, he was a voice in the wilderness trying to get funding and support for the Lincoln library concept.
Congressman Ray LaHood, who represents part of Springfield, says his Washington colleagues were surprised to learn that no single place in America housed "the essence of Lincoln." But soon the Springfield museum and library will. Construction of the library is scheduled to be completed by late 2002, and the museum by 2003. That will allow Lincoln to live in the minds and hearts of millions of people throughout the world for decades to come.
Because conventional wisdom says that Illinois' four legislative leaders are in near-total control of the General Assembly, I started following their Web sites closely this year. You might be surprised that the most up-to-date one as of early January was state Senate President James "Pate" Philip's. The Senate GOP site also was the first to post news about this year's legislative session.
Both the House Republicans and House Democrats had sites "under construction" until mid-January, when the House GOP started putting up a few nuggets of news.
The Senate Democrats had a bold-looking site with a letter from Minority Leader Emil Jones, but the latest information was from last September. By the end of January, however, a few Democratic senators had started posting news about their own achievements.
Welcome to Richard Ringeisen, who starts in April as chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield. I served on the advisory search committee, and we are pleased that the U of I Board of Trustees approved such a strong academic leader.