This President’s Day, Senior Senator Dick Durbin announced that $490,000 had been earmarked to explore the history of one of our greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln. This was the first time Senator Durbin had made the public announcement about the funding that was included as part of the omnibus appropriations bill signed in December 2007. The money goes towards a continuous project for economic development and tourism that is part of the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition.
When asked about what kinds of projects could be funded by the money Durbin left the field open.
“We’re trying to let a thousand flowers bloom here,” said Durbin, “and not dictate from the top down.”
In order to decide whether a project deserves funding there will be a Board of Directors. There is also a stipulation that communities provide matching funds for any project that they undertake to show their commitment.
When asked about whether this is a good version of earmarking, the Senator pointed out that earmarking also funds fixing roads and sewer systems within communities.
“I think this is a good investment,” said Durbin. “Illinois sends a lot more money to Washington than it gets back.”
He emphasized the need for transparency in government.
His website has information on all of the bills he is working with and Durbin recommended that people explore it, “if you suffer from any kind of insomnia.”
At the end of his official announcement the Senator commented on other political issues the country faces today from the presidential race to campaign finance.
He pointed out the financial costs of running a campaign were astronomical.
“The way we finance our congressional campaigns has to change,” said Durbin. “It’s not sustainable.”
He suggested discounts for political ad time as well as the state funding the candidate to show support. He recommended public financing as an alternative to special interests as well as a shorter campaign period.
While he was here, Senator Durbin also speculated about the Presidential race.
“I’ve got my eye on a fellow Senator from Illinois,” said Durbin.
Durbin has been working in the Obama camp but when the subject of a spot for him in the potential Obama administration came up he declined.
“No, I’ve got a good job,” said Durbin. “I like what I’m doing.”
He also speculated about how candidates for running mate will be chosen, saying that the idea of a running mate needing to carry a geographic region has not been applicable for some years now.
“Someone who is credible and who will add something to the campaign,” said Durbin.
He gave his opinion on how the race has been going so far.
“If Hillary Clinton’s going to do it, she’s going to need some dramatic victories,” said Durbin.
He also spoke about John McCain, who he has worked with in the House and Senate and who is a friend, saying a good book with information on McCain is The Nightingale’s Song.
He also explained the delegate system and the role of super delegates.
“If the super delegates don’t treat this honestly and openly there might not be any next time,” said Durbin.
The speech was political in its entirety, right down to the people in attendance. Among the audience were Mayor Gary Smith, City Manager Dane Bragg, Representative Donald Moffitt and Retired Judge Harry Bulkeley who is chair of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
Knox had been contacted about hosting this announcement last Friday.
The Senator chose Knox to make his speech because of the close historic ties the school has with Lincoln being the only standing Lincoln Douglas Debate site. Lincoln also signed the charter for Knox when he was a state legislator.
Knox President Roger Taylor introduced the Senator and gave a brief history about Knox and its historic connection to Lincoln. Durbin’s speech occurred right on the heels of the announcement that Madeleine Albright, another influential politician, would be the commencement speaker this year.
“It’s all part of the mosaic. As we do a better job about getting word out about Knox’s academic excellence and its history more people including Senator Durbin know more about the college,” said Taylor.
At the end of Durbin’s speech, Taylor invited him to sit in the Lincoln Chair.
“This is the closest I’ve come to following in a President’s footsteps,” said Durbin.