Rauner Leaves Early From Illinois Governor's Prayer Breakfast

May 6, 2015

Jackie Joyner-Kersee gestures to the governor's empty seat during her speech.
Credit Lisa Ryan/WUIS

Olympic gold medal winner Jackie Joyner-Kersee says she never imagined as a girl growing up in East St. Louis that she would one day speak at an event hosted by the governor. Gov. Bruce Rauner introduced her, but didn't stay for her speech.

"To the head table, I am honored to be in your presence. To, you know, the governor, he left," she said.

Rauner was scheduled to be in Chicago three hours after he left. He was originally supposed to give a presentation, but that was taken out of the program.

Joyner-Kersee talked about how her parents and coaches worked hard so that she could succeed.

"But I use my circumstance and my environment as a motivation to dream, to have that dream to know that I deserve, as well as we deserve, the best," she said.

The prayer breakfast included a Hebrew scripture reading, a recitation from the Qur'an and a New Testament reading. The event has been held annually since 1963.

GOP Rep. Tim Butler from Springfield gave the closing benediction.

"I was going to tell the governor he made a very wise decision by showing up today in his first year," he said. "There's a certain unnamed governor who didn't show up his first year to the prayer breakfast, and I don't think the good Lord took too kindly to that that he didn't show up to the prayer breakfast."

Butler was referring to Rod Blagojevich, who is currently serving a 14-year prison sentence.