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Bradley University’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service presented its inaugural National Bipartisan Leadership Award to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood ’71 at a reception on campus Thursday evening.
“Secretary LaHood is most deserving of this award in recognition of his distinguished public service career as a member of Congress and as a member of President Obama’s cabinet,” said Brad McMillan, executive director of the I.P.L. “We are thrilled tonight to award this honor to Bradley’s first presidential cabinet member and a man who really deserves it.”
The Institute, which was founded by Bradley in 2006, plans to present the award each year to a national public servant who has modeled ethical, civil, and bipartisan leadership.
LaHood, a Republican who graduated from Bradley in 1971, spent 14 years in Congress as representative of Illinois’ 18th district before being named to Obama’s cabinet in January. During that time, he led efforts to establish a higher level of civility, decorum, and bipartisanship in the House of Representatives and was co-founder of the biennial Congressional Bipartisan Retreat, an event that enables representatives and their families to become better acquainted outside of the Washington, D.C. atmosphere.
In his new position as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, LaHood heads an agency that employs more than 55,000 Americans and has a budget that tops $70 billion.
“Secretary LaHood is doing a great job and it is truly a pleasure to continue to work with him on transportation issues so vital to America,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin in a special video prepared for the reception. Durbin was unable to attend the event due to Congress being in session. “When I think of bipartisan, ethical, and civil public servants, Ray LaHood is at the top of the list.”
Notable examples of organizations in Central Illinois that benefited from LaHood’s bipartisan collaborations in Congress are the Heartland Community Health Care Clinic, Illinois River restoration efforts, Peoria Riverfront Museum and the Peoria Cancer Center. LaHood was known in Congress for his reasonable, common sense voice and in 1999, Congressional Quarterly named him one of Capitol Hill’s “50 Most Effective Legislators.”
“When it comes to infrastructure, from major highways, to airport runways, to upgrading our locks, to giving small communities clean water, Ray worked with legislators, mayors and county boards to bring home the resources,” Illinois Senator Dale Risinger said. “To Ray, it never mattered what your party label was, he just wanted to see good things happen for communities throughout Central Illinois.”
LaHood’s seat in Congress was previously held by Republican Bob Michel ’48 HON ’81, who also spoke at Thursday’s event, and is now occupied by Republican Aaron Schock ’02.