By Jim Edgar and John Shaw
We announced last fall that we established the Paul Simon-Jim Edgar award to celebrate statesmanship in Illinois. While we have no formula to offer that magically ends partisanship in Illinois, quiets rancor, and forges a sense of shared destiny, we believe this award will affirm and honor the Prairie State’s best traditions.
Given our current political climate, it is easy to forget that statesmanship, while unusual, has been a critical feature of the Prairie State’s politics and history and has been demonstrated by Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike.
Illinois has been blessed with statesmen and stateswomen over the decades: governors who risked their careers to solve critical problems and prepare the state for the future; mayors who crafted bold and imaginative plans for their cities and took political gambles to bring their dreams to fruition; city council members who prepared creative and constructive long-term strategies for their communities; and state legislators and constitutional officers who broke from party orthodoxy and political comfort zones to advance solutions to improve the lives of fellow Illinoisans.
The annual Simon-Edgar Statesmanship Award will be presented to an elected state or local government official in Illinois who has demonstrated a pattern of public service characterized by vision, courage, compassion, effectiveness, civility, and bipartisanship.
As we prepare to present our inaugural award, we seek guidance from fellow Illinoisans. We urge citizens from the Prairie State to nominate someone from state or local government in Illinois who has displayed exceptional leadership. We are not seeking the perfect public servant, but a leader who has consistently endeavored to serve the public good and prepare his or her constituents for future challenges and opportunities.
To nominate a candidate or candidates, please send us a letter at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, Southern Illinois University, Attn: Paul Simon-Jim Edgar Statesmanship Award, Mail Code 4429, 1231 Lincoln Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901-4304. You may also go to PaulSimonInstitute.org/SimonEdgarAward to complete and submit your nomination through an electronic form. Please submit your nominations by June 15.
An advisory committee will review the nominations and recommend finalists for our consideration. The award will be announced at the August meeting of the Edgar Fellows Program. The recipient will be recognized and invited to give remarks there as well as at an event hosted later in the year by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
It is our hope that the award will shine a spotlight on remarkable leadership that is taking place in our communities and state. We believe this award will inspire current and future public servants to act in the best traditions of Illinois. We invite your help in selecting the first recipient of the Paul Simon-Jim Edgar Statesmanship award.
Jim Edgar was the 38th governor of Illinois. He founded the Edgar Fellows Program at the University of Illinois’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs. John Shaw is the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.