Ray LaHood, politician and alumnus of Bradley University (‘71), spoke about bipartisan leadership and the current state of the nation’s government in a lecture Thursday at Hayden-Clark Alumni Center.
“I think people that are in public service, and I include myself in this, are driven by the idea that you want to make a difference and you think you can make a difference and you can do just as good a job as the person that’s there or you can aspire to achieve the same kind of success of people that you admire in politics or public service,” LaHood said.
LaHood served as representative for Illinois’s 18th congressional district from 1995 to 2009 and United States Secretary of Transportation from 2009 until 2013. The lecture was hosted by the Bradley Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) and Bradley’s Institute for Principled Leadership in Public Service.
“One of Ray LaHood’s great leadership qualities is his ability to work across political sides for the good of the country, our state and our central Illinois region,” nonprofit leadership assistant professor and coordinator Brad McMillan said. “He is truly a model of principled bipartisan leadership and he has been a wonderful supporter and friend to his alma mater, Bradley University.”
LaHood talked about his soon-to-be released memoir and his experiences in Washington, D.C.
“During my 14 years in Congress, there were some very historic moments,” LaHood said. “Maybe 25 or 30 years from now, if somebody wants to figure out how somebody like Ray LaHood was a member of the intelligence committee that dealt with 9/11 or impeachment or the Iraq War, that there would be a book about it.”
According to LaHood, a number of bills and reforms were passed during his time on Congress despite strong personalities because they knew communication was key to accomplished objectives.
“No one of the 435 gets their own way,” LaHood said. “No one of the 100 senators gets their own way. It’s only when people sit down and work things out. I’m proud of that time, and that hasn’t happened in Washington of late.”
Community members, students and OLLI members asked questions in the Q-and-A session during the second half of the event.
Students asked questions about how to get young people involved in politics, what to do about the rising costs of higher education and how multiple political parties might work in the U.S.
One student was seeking advice for leaders of organizations on campus.
“Make relationships with as many people as you can with people who are likeminded as you are or people who perhaps aren’t,” LaHood said. “Get to know those folks and…try to recruit those people to get involved.”
“I think this event will be actually interesting,” junior sports communication and marketing double major Jessica Sauzameda said. “Last year, I came for one of the speeches they gave, and I actually found it to be really interesting and a lot more interesting than I thought I would. I enjoyed it.”