Wednesday, February 13, 2013
'Adopted' lawmaker program aids
Commentary by Kay Shipman
Our state needs more opportunities for people to understand
different viewpoints and life experiences. That's why Illinois Farm Bureau's Adopt-A-Legislator
program does so much good now and will continue to in the
Many county Farm Bureaus have developed strong relationships
with current and former "adopted" state lawmakers. The program is
intended to build long-term relationships between urban legislators
and downstate farmers.
It "helps each understand a little better where the other side
is coming from," explained Christina Nourie, IFB's northeast
legislative coordinator and overseer of the program.
Case in point - the Jefferson County Farm Bureau and Chicago
Democrat Sen. Kwame Raoul. Raoul will play a key leadership role on
some major issues in the spring legislative session.
Back in October 2008, I watched as Raoul, his family, and
several constituents toured Jefferson County schools, farms,
businesses, and sights. I still remember the Chicago group's look
of wonderment as they walked through the halls of the tiny rural
McClellan Grade School. Its entire student body could have ridden
on one school bus.
A month later, Jefferson County farmers and leaders thoughtfully
listened as two of Chicago's Dyett High School students showed how
a student jury is used to resolve a mock fight among students on
the city's south side.
It was much different than the way conflicts are resolved at
McClellan Grade School.
State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-Chicago), right, chats with Farm
members during a tour of his legislative district last
Through the Adopt-A-Legislator program, the personal connections
build relationships that continue as some adopted legislators move
into leadership positions or other elected offices. Some
relationships date back to the beginning of the program in
Former state Sen. Miguel del Valle, for example, stayed in
contact with his adopted county Farm Bureau even after he began
serving as Chicago's city clerk.
Here's a big pat on the back for the 73 county Farm Bureaus and
the legislators who are involved with the Adopt-A-Legislator
program. Stay engaged. Our state needs understanding of different
perspectives more today than ever before.
Kay Shipman is the editor of
legislative affairs for FarmWeek.
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