‘A lifelong dream’: Lake County residents jump at chance to attend State of the Union as congressional guests
An Antioch nurse, a teacher at North Chicago Community High School and a Waukegan environmental activist will be in attendance at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Capitol Hill Tuesday as guests of two local U.S. Representatives and an Illinois senator who want to send a message to the current administration.
U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Deerfield, said North Chicago social studies department chair and instructor David Brothman is “the perfect role model” to invite to the State of the Union address because of Rothman’s passion for teaching government.
The 26-year educator, who has worked in teaching and administrative roles at North Chicago since 1999, teaches advanced placement government, U.S. history, civics and sociology and psychology at the high school.
Brothman and Schneider met when the teacher recruited some of his students to participate in Schneider’s Model Congress, which teaches youth about the work of elected representatives and encourages them to consider a career in public service.
“The historic nature of the ongoing impeachment trial has caused me to think a lot about our constitutional system of government and how important it is that our young people understand the vitality of this incredible document and our unique system of checks and balances,” Schneider said. “(Brothman) motivates his students to wrestle with these vital topics every day.”
Trump will give the final State of the Union address of his current presidential term just before senators are scheduled to take a formal vote on the articles of his impeachment on Wednesday.
This will be the second time in U.S. history that an impeached president will give the State of the Union address. The first was given by Bill Clinton in 1999.
Brothman, a self-proclaimed political junkie who recalled working as a congressional intern in the late 1980s, said he is beyond excited about the invitation. He added he can’t wait to rub elbows with members of Congress.
“It’s a lifelong dream,” Brothman said.
On Tuesday, the Wheeling resident will have many eyes trying to spot him on the House chamber balcony — his North Chicago High School students.
When Brothman told his classes about his upcoming trip to Washington D.C., he said, some were thrilled and others didn’t know much about the annual event, so it became a teaching moment.
Some of Brothman’s older pupils will be able to vote in the 2020 election. He hopes his experience at the Sate of the Union will help them make a deeper connection to his lessons on democracy.
“If I can get them involved in the civic process by going to the State of the Union, that’s exciting,” Brothman said. “I want to make sure they know they have a hand in making choices for their state and their country.”
The speech that Trump is slated to give to the nation Tuesday will allow him to lay out an agenda for his presidential term’s last year, as he’s campaigning for a second term in the upcoming election.
Antioch resident Karen Battaglia said she’d like to hear Trump address healthcare during his speech. The nurse and trauma coordinator for emergency services at Northwestern Medicine McHenry will also be in attendance at the Capitol as the guest of U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville.
Battagia said she wants to hear that Trump, “firmly supports protecting affordable health care and preserving coverage for preexisting conditions.”
The Trump administration has fought to dismantle the Affordable Care Act through a lawsuit and constant claims of its unconstitutionality.
Underwood — who represents the 14th Congressional District, which covers parts of Lake, McHenry, Kane, DeKalb, DuPage and Will counties — has championed several bills to expand access to affordable health care.
In May, legislation Underwood introduced to help protect people with preexisting conditions passed the U.S. House.
“Health care is important to me personally as a nurse with a preexisting condition,” Underwood said. “Karen’s story is exactly why I’m working every day to lower health care costs for Illinoisans and safeguard protections for people with preexisting conditions."
Although Battaglia is a member of Underwood’s Nursing Advisory Council, the mother and grandmother said she didn’t expect the congresswoman’s request for her to attend the State of the Union.
“That is one invitation I never anticipated,” Battaglia said.
“My goal is to share my story of why healthcare coverage for preexisting conditions is so very important to me personally,” Battaglia said. “I have asthma and have been hospitalized many times for respiratory distress. I have experienced respiratory failure and required intubation and mechanical ventilation due to my asthma.”
Battaglia added that she wants Congress to realize that worrying about health care insurance places an additional burden on people who are already struggling with health issues.
Also on the invitation list is Celeste Flores of Waukegan, who serves as Lake County outreach director for Faith in Place, an Illinois-based educational and advocacy organization that helps diverse religious and faith communities implement environmental programs.
Flores, who is also co-chair for Clean Power Lake County, was invited by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois, who described her as “a tireless advocate for environmental justice.”
“Every American has the right to breathe safe air, drink clean water and live on uncontaminated land regardless of their Zip Code, the size of their wallet and the color of their skin," Duckworth said in a statement. "However, that’s often not the case for low income communities and people of color.
Duckworth added that she and Flores, "can shine a light on these issues and raise awareness of the fact that these communities face public health challenges at alarming rates while too many in power look the other way.”
Flores said in a statement that growing up in “a low-income and working-class area, and as a child of immigrant parents in a predominantly Latinx and African American community" gave her firsthand knowledge of how communities like Waukegan, “carry the burden of polluting industries and are forced to deal with the consequences of environmental injustice for generations.”
“The time to act is now,” Flores added, "and by joining together with elected officials (like) Duckworth, who has been a staunch advocate for environmental justice, we can lift up the voices of those disproportionally affected and achieve our shared vision for social change that is led by those most directly impacted.”
The 2020 State of the Union address is scheduled for broadcast at 8 p.m. Central Standard Time on Tuesday.