Rod Blagojevich’s farewell speech:
Patti and I want to take this opportunity — and I think we’d prefer to have another opportunity to do this. But we want to thank all of the people here today and everywhere who have been supportive and kind and good to us, to our children, during what has been a very long and hard three years. And as things get harder before they get better Patti and I can’t begin to tell you how grateful we are from the bottom of our hearts. The inexpressible sense of gratitude we have for all of you and everyone else who have given your thoughts your prayers, your best wishes.
Let me also say to the people of Illinois how they honored me by electing me their governor twice, and how honored I was to serve them as governor, to serve the people of the North and North West Side in this neighborhood and in neighborhoods. I grew up in Congress for six years, to serve as a state lawmaker for four years. I want you all to know you honored me with that privilege. I believe I always, always thought about what was right for the people, and I am proud as I leave and enter the next part of what is a dark and hard journey, that I can take with me the sense of accomplishment, the real belief, that the things that I did as governor, the things that I did in Congress have actually helped real ordinary people.
When I became governor, I fought a lot, and maybe I fought too much, and maybe one of the lessons to this whole story is that you gotta be maybe a little bit more humble. You can never have enough humility, and maybe I should have had more of that. But one thing I had a lot of was the desire in my heart to help average, ordinary people, people who didn’t have a voice, people like my mother and father who got up every single day and went to work, who worked hard, who sacrificed for their kids, who did without so their kids could have things.
And I want you to know that when we did the All Kids program, to provide health care to all the kids in Illinois, the first state in American history, that was hard to do, not easy, but I am gratified knowing that we helped a lot of kids and did things that saved lives. Health care for the mothers of those kids. We expanded health care to families, moms and dads and helped save lives through that program. Then breast and cervical cancer screening programs, mammograms and pap smears, free ones for uninsured women. We know that early detection of breast cancer and pap smears will save lives. These programs save lives. They were hard to get. I got bruised and battered and bloody, but we were able to get those done.
Free rides for senior citizens, people got mad over that. I never understood that. And I never raised the income tax on the people. We fought the special interests to make sure that what we did for the people, we didn’t do on your backs. But we took on the special interests and lobbyists, and I take that with me during this next journey, feeling that that made some of being governor worthwhile to me.
Now I want to say I told the judge back in December that I certainly made my share of mistakes. I take responsibility and am responsible I told him for the things that I said, the things that I talked about doing, the political talk about how to raise campaign funds, the things that we believed were political horse trades and legal. I take responsibility for saying those things, and as I told the judge back in December, everything I talked about doing when it came to campaign fund-raising and political horse trading, I believed was on the right side of the law. The decision went against me. I am responsible for the things that I said. I accept that decision as hard as it is.
And the law as it stands right now is that I have to go do what I have to do. And THIS, is the hardest thing I’ve EVER had to do. But it is the law, and we follow the law, and I will begin to do that tomorrow.
Now I want to say something else. How do you make sense of all this? What do you tell your children when calamity strikes and hardship comes? What do you do when disaster hits your family and you leave behind your children and your wife? Tomorrow, saying goodbye to Patti and my kids will be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve been putting off the thought about what that’s going to be like. I can’t even think about it now.
And on top of this, the comfort that I get as a father whose not going to be here watching my children as they grow, whose not going to be here to help Patti raise our kids, as hopeful as we are about the long-term future, in the immediate future, this is what’s before us. How do you make sense of it, and what is it that you can tell your kids so that they can appreciate the magnitude of this calamity?
First and foremost, Patti and I acknowledge calamity strikes not only our family, but there are families everywhere who are going through times that are much harder than we have to go through, that are going through loss and suffering way more than what we have to go through. And we take strength from their example, how they trudge through it, how they never give up, how they bear the hardship and the burden. And maybe there is something to what’s written in the bible, in both the Old and the Mew Testament, and what the ancient Greeks wrote, about through suffering comes wisdom.
And maybe through suffering and enduring hardships and persevering through that, it strengthens your faith to never give in and to never give up, and to ultimately teach your kids those values. And it’s one thing to say it to your kids, but quite another to actually do it, and to stand tall in the face of adversity, because I have to confess there are times when I just want to give up, but then I look into the eyes of my daughters and I look at my little girls, and I think that is not what a father is supposed to do.
You’re supposed to show them how you fight through adversity, and you keep fighting, and you stand tall, and you bear your crosses and you bear your burdens.
And that’s why I hope maybe, maybe our kids can learn at least in part from what’s happening to us, and the calamity that we’re facing.
And let me say one thing too. Bad news came again today. And one of the things I find comforting to me as a Dad as I have to leave my kids is knowing that my kids are in great schools providing safe, warm environments and great teachers and great students. We learned today that Amy’s school, St. Scholastica, was closing down. And that is a grievous blow to both Patti and to Amy. We hope that if there’s anybody out there who cares about that beautiful little Catholic girls’ school, St. Scholastica, and is able to help keep that school open, if you can open up your hearts, we’ll do whatever else is possible to keep that school open, that sure would mean a lot.
It’s a good school to all of us.
There’s another thing that I’d like to say, and that is it’s very easy to focus on all the negative when you’re living it all the time and you have to face what I have to face. I have a hard time even saying where I have got to go. Hard for me to say that I have to go to prison. And that’s a hard word for me to say. And in the nighttime when I say my prayers, I kind of speak to God euphemistically about helping Patti and the kids through this, and then me through this next phase. But it is the reality as it is today. And now we have to face it.
But part of facing it sometimes is to give perspective, to not just what you’re facing today, but what you’re facing yesterday, and what you have to face tomorrow, but to take your whole life in perspective. And I have had many blessings in my life, and it’s not over. And among the blessings that I’ve had, I’ve had two loving parents, an immigrant father, who was a factory worker, a working mom who passed out transfers at the CTA. They never owned a home. They sacrificed and gave their kids opportunities they never had.
I have had the blessing of living the American Dream. I have known high triumph and high office, governor of the fifth biggest state in America. I have known what it’s like to achieve things, real meaningful things like health care for kids and health care for women, and doing things that actually help real ordinary people that don’t have a voice. I’ve been blessed with that. But most important, I’ve been blessed with two precious children and a loving and a beautiful wife.
And it has been walking through life with Patti, a most gracious journey.
And you know when she took her vow when we were married and she said through good times and bad, neither one of us could ever have imagined it would be like this. And here’s been Patti, standing strong, and standing tall. And as I leave, not in a place to help my kids like I want to, not in a place to protect them as I should, not in a place to be able to work for them like my father worked for me, I KNOW that they have the best mother in the world, and she will work hard and she will work tirelessly, and she will do like she does with everything, great at everything, and most of all, be the great mother that she is. And I take that with me. And I find strength, and I am inspired by her. (I love you too, honey).
We are teaching our kids that in hard times, in tears, you’ve gotta live in your hope and not your fears. We are living in our hope. We still have faith in the future. We are appealing the case. We’ve got great trust and faith in the appeal. And while my faith in things have sometimes been challenged, I still believe that in America, this is a country that’s governed by the rule of law, that the truth ultimately will prevail, and that this as bad as it is, is only the beginning of another part of our long journey that will only get worse before it gets better. But that this is not over, and we have faith in the future, faith in the rule of law, and we have faith in God that right ultimately will make might.
God bless you. Thank you very much. And we will see you. And I will see you. I’ll see you around.
-- Maudlyne Ihejirika