May 9, 2013
Cheering on Waukegan Public Library
Yesterday was truly special. I had the honor of joining staff members from the Waukegan Public Library at the White House as First Lady Michelle Obama presented them with the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ National Medal. Waukegan Library was one of only ten institutions nationwide to receive this honor.
Richard Lee, Executive Director of the Waukegan Library, wisely noted that they no longer judge libraries “by the number of books checked out,” but rather success is measured by a library's service to the community. Clearly, today’s award symbolizes exactly how successful Waukegan Public Library has been.
More than 55 percent of Waukegan residents speak a language other than English, and so the library started various language programs, including its Conversational ESL Program that boasts more than 250 current or former participants. It’s programs like these that accomplish more than teaching English; they serve as gateways to more opportunity in the future.
During the awards ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama praised Waukegan Library for its innovation, passion and commitment to the community. The mark of a true community institution is what it gives back to the people, how it helps enrich their lives. Waukegan Public Library has clearly established itself as a focal point of the Waukegan community and an innovative nationwide leader in community service.
When our communities are enriched by programs that empower residents and open doors of opportunity, we all prosper. I am proud to say that Waukegan Public Library is a pillar of the Tenth District, and I congratulate the library and its staff once again for earning this distinguished award.
Feb. 19, 2013
Reducing Gun Violence in Our Communties
We see it on our TVs every day. Random shootings, innocent lives lost, families shattered. Here in Illinois it feels like an epidemic. And nationally, 33 people die every day due to gun violence.
In just the past two years, the tragedies in Tucson, Aurora, Oak Creek and Newtown shocked us to our cores. These mass shootings blind us with grief and pain, but they also open our eyes to the tragedies—the less publicized ones—that occur each and every day, from big city streets to small town homes.
More often than not, the localized instances of violence don’t command the attention of the nation, but once in a while one does.
Hadiya Pendleton was an honor student, and as a majorette in the band, she performed at the President’s inauguration. Hers was a life full of promise and hope. She would make a difference in this world because she was determined to. But Hadiya’s life was tragically cut short on a rainy January afternoon.
Cleopatra Cowley, Hadiya’s mother, said what we all felt in our hearts: no parent should ever have to experience this. No parent should ever experience the pain of burying a child.
Joining a number of my colleagues seeking to highlight the importance of addressing gun violence, I chose to invite Cleopatra to the President’s State of the Union address Tuesday night. I was so pleased that she and Hadiya's father, Nate, had the chance to sit beside First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech.
Cleopatra is a powerful and heartbreaking new voice joining a chorus calling for common sense action to reduce these senseless acts. She should be an inspiration to us all as we work to sensibly reduce the gun violence in our communities.
And while I know no matter what we do that we can’t completely prevent these tragedies from ever occurring, we do have the opportunity to save lives.
I heard it during the gun violence roundtable I hosted last month, and I continue to hear it every day: Congress must act now because we all have a responsibility to seize this moment and make a difference.
We need to implement universal background checks—a smart step that more than 90 percent of Americans support.
We need to finally make gun trafficking a federal crime.
We need to expand access to mental-health treatment.
We need to limit access to large capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons.
We need act for Hadiya and the countless other young people whose lives are abruptly ended in senseless acts of gun violence. We need to act for those killed in Newtown, in Aurora, in Oak Creek, in Tucson. We need to act for the 33 we lose each and every day to gun violence.
This is the moment. This is our time. Let's get to work.
Jan. 15, 2013
Touring the Tenth District’s Businesses
I have consistently held that re-energizing our economy is job one. It is crucial that we begin to restore confidence in our future so that businesses, large and small, begin to again invest in their futures—in innovation, in hiring and in training new employees.
This past week, during my first trip home to the Tenth District after being sworn in as its Congressman, I had the opportunity to visit and tour nine local businesses, meeting their owners and employees, learning in some detail about the opportunities and challenges that they face and discussing how Congress can have a positive impact to help them prosper and grow.
If I have one important takeaway from my visits, it’s that the Tenth District is home to many wonderful businesses employing many capable people. At every company I visited, I saw enthusiasm, I sensed optimism and I learned about the diversity of opportunity here in Illinois. I have no doubt that our district is poised to help lead our nation’s economic recovery.
But I also heard frustration about what is happening in Washington.
From family businesses such as C-Line Products and Ludlow Manufacturing, to large corporations such as Walgreens and Underwriters Laboratories, some common themes emerged: we need Congress to stop fighting and start working together; we need more skilled technical workers; and incentives for companies to invest in their businesses and their people make a difference.
Ludlow Manufacturing, a metal fabricator based in Gurnee, is a family-owned business with 100 percent of their operations based in the Tenth District. They have experienced rapid growth and are excited about continued expansion, but one of the major concerns is the lack of technicians and engineers to operate sophisticated machinery. They’re so eager for new, skilled employees that they’ve reached out to local high schools to generate interest in the profession and even mentioned considering conducting most of the training in-house.
I heard the same concern from Knuth Machine Tools—a global metalworking equipment manufacturer with its North American headquarters here in Lincolnshire. With installations throughout the country, they simply can’t keep pace with the demand for technicians.
It is companies like these that have established the Tenth District’s long history as a national leader in manufacturing, and in order to keep that tradition alive, it’s critical that the opportunities to learn the necessary skills exist.
For both Connexion, an electrical products distributor in Buffalo Grove, and Schumacher Electric, a battery charger manufacturer in Mount Prospect, uncertainty in Washington poses a serious obstacle. Several of the companies I visited told me that without knowing when or which regulations will go into effect, without knowing how taxes will be structured or whether various compromises will be reached, decision making becomes more difficult and investments can be delayed or deferred.
Congress simply has to stop kicking the can down the road for two, or six or twelve months—successful businesses don’t make investment decisions with six-month horizons; they plan for three, or five or even ten years. In order for these employers to have the confidence to invest in new technologies and take on new workers, we must bring longer-term thinking to the policy decisions we make in Congress.
By the end of the tour, it was clear that these businesses are excited to have their roots in the Tenth District and are confident in their abilities, but frustrated by inaction in Washington. These businesses want to stay here, to grow and succeed here. They’re not asking for special favors, just fairness and constructive action from elected officials. And I think that’s a request worth getting behind.