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The Contrast: Reflections on Returning to West Point

Ives Op-Ed: A Call to Lead with Honor

The contrast could not have been sharper. 

As “Old Grads,” my husband and I returned to West Point to complete the 12-mile march back from Camp Buckner with our son and his platoon.  We assembled on a mid-August morning at 0300 while the route was still dark.  We climbed over the rocky hills of New York with upperclassmen, West Point cadre, old graduates (150 of us), and the new cadets.  This march was the final task for the cadets to complete basic training, known as Beast Barracks, before they were accepted as members of the Corps.

The night before the march at the New Cadet Talent Show, the class motto, voted on by the class, was revealed.  This motto stays with them for the rest of their lives and is inscribed in their class crest. The West Point Class of 2016 chose the motto "With Honor We Lead." 

They formed up behind the banner displaying their motto and proudly marched into West Point garrison. As I stood there watching them pass by, before we old grads fell into formation behind them for the final two miles, I thought back to the political parades I had marched in this summer for my own campaign.   Can you imagine the crowd’s reaction to an Illinois politician brazen enough to march behind a banner with the motto “With Honor We Lead.”  He would be mocked all the way to final step. 

The problem in Illinois right now is the lack of honor among those who lead.  There’s no honor in making promises we can’t keep.  There’s no honor in intentionally not paying your bills on time, and there’s no honor in being the subject of a report by the University of Illinois at Chicago called "Chicago and Illinois, Leading the Pack in Corruption.”

Even ethical legislators are not untouched by the cynicism created by the egregious culture of corruption fostered by Chicago Democrats.  Some Republicans have been guilty too; but while the GOP has purged its wrongdoers, Chicago Democrats keep reelecting them. 

On Friday the Illinois House voted on the expulsion of State Representative Derrick  Smith for accepting a bribe as an elected official.  He will likely become one of the over 1800(!) persons convicted of public corruption in Illinois over the last 36 years, as reported in the February 15, 2012 Chicago Tribune article entitled “Chicago area racks up most public corruption convictions in U.S.”  Just the headline should be enough to make us all cringe.  

How did this person get into office?  Smith, a Jesse White staffer, was appointed
to his seat by Chicago ward bosses, who urged voters to support him during the
primary season, after he had already been arrested and knowing he was under
investigation, so they could then control the appointment of his
replacement.  Shame on them, and shame on
the voters who fell for it.

We need an honor code in Springfield like the one cadets pledge to live by at West Point.  And we need new leadership.  Mr. Madigan needs to retire.  His reign over the last 28 out of 30 years has moved Illinois to the bottom 5 of most economic indicators including worst unfunded pension liability, lowest credit rating, and highest unemployment rate in the Midwest.

I congratulate the West Point class of 2016.  As young adults, these cadets have made a strong statement about the way they will conduct themselves as leaders. If these young adults, most of whom just graduated from high school, already
understand the importance of honor and leadership, we should expect our mature
leaders in Springfield to understand as well. 

I challenge Mike Madigan, John Cullerton and their associates to adher
to the same honor code in Springfield.

Jeanne Ives                                                                                                USMA 1987                                                                                           Candidate, Illinois State Representative, District 42

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