"Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime."|
Adlai E. Stevenson III did more than listen to the words his famous father spoke in 1952, he lived them. With a pedigree of public service that dates back to Abraham Lincoln, and the example of his father before him, the Illinois native did more than sit at the elbow of history.
He rolled up his sleeves and dug in deeply in a political career that included two years in the Illinois Statehouse, stints as state treasurer and U.S. senator. Urged to run for president by the late Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley he was on Jimmy Carter's short list for vice president.
He twice ran for governor of Illinois, losing both times, but neither was entirely his fault. That first loss in 1982 came, not at the hands of voters, but a politically motivated Illinois Supreme Court. He had won the popular vote in unofficial totals and was armed with plenty of irregularities to challenge the official tally that gave the race to Jim Thompson. Rather than look at a mountain of evidence, justices rejected the state's recount statute itself, giving the contest to the Republican challenger. A second bid was doomed to failure because the presence of Lyndon LaRouche followers on the ballot forced him and other Democrats to run on a third-party label.
The Dispatch and the Rock Island Argus editorial board had the privilege of not only taking a walk through such history when he and wife, Nancy, visited with us Monday, but picking their brains regarding the present and future of our nation and our state.
Though Sen. Stevenson, now 82, has slowed down a bit from a busy professional life, he remains dedicated to bettering our nation their Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy.
Housed in his boyhood home near Libertyville, a landmark carefully maintained by the Lake County Forest Preserve District, the center got off to a slow start due to a tough economy.
These days, however, Nancy Stevenson tells us, the think tank aimed at exploring America's systems of government, identifying the most vexing problems facing it and searching for solutions to them is gaining steam. But it continues to need a broad cross-section of thinkers and doers to reach its full potential.
Among the things it already is doing is holding conferences and monthly programs on topics like Iran, presidential elections and campaign financing. The Stevensons' experience in American public life gives the center credibility as well as access to leaders who can help tackle today's problems, including the couple themselves. Consider, for example, Sen. Stevenson's take on today's politics.
"The Democrats used to win elections by campaigning," he told us. "When my father ran for governor, he spent $157,000. In his day there was no pay-to-play. He recruited the best leaders he could get, regardless of their party background. Now all the candidates do are flyovers and fundraisers. I wouldn't go into this kind of politics."
He adds, "We have lost our balance." Gridlock in Washington and Springfield and the resulting inability to tackle festering national and global problems show that we fail to address that imbalance at our own peril.
We cannot begin to do that without an army of wise and involved people willing to search for solutions.
We salute Adlai and Nancy Stevenson for providing such a place and gathering such people. Those efforts do matter.
As Sen. Stevenson's father noted, "I have learned that in quiet places reason abounds, that in quiet people there is vision and purpose, that many great things are revealed to the humble that are hidden from the great."
Visit www.stevensoncenterondemocracy.org and join the conversation.