Yorkville woman faced homelessness twice, gives back to Kendall County PADS

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County

“I was homeless for two years in Aurora when I was a teenager,” recalled April Morsch, who now lives in Yorkville with her husband, son, daughter, and three grandchildren. “I know what it’s like.”22519248_1469562249758458_6674815785556872765_n

Many years later, in 2012, her husband Robert had shoulder surgery, forcing him to take leave from his job at Caterpillar in Montgomery and receive disability benefits.

The couple had to move in with relatives, while their daughter and her three children took refuge at one of the seven homeless shelters that Kendall County PADS operates during the cold months of the fall, winter, and early spring.

In 2016, Robert was successfully treated for Stage 4 cancer and it has been in remission for two years. So he has returned to his job repairing tractors and the family is back together living in a two-bedroom apartment in Yorkville.

“God has always kept his hand on us,” said April, exuding gratitude.

She now runs a Facebook page called April’s Awesome Attic, which is sort of an online garage sale–only without any junk. She collects and sells good clothes, coats, shoes, boots, jewelry, toys, baby equipment, and other items.

Thirty percent of the profits go toward helping to support her family, while the remaining 70 percent is directly donated to PADS, the Kendall County Food Pantry, the Caring Hands Thrift Shop in Yorkville, and the 3:11 Project nonprofit charity.

Mrs. Morsch washes, mends, and irons all the clothing as well as sanitizes the toys, jewelry, and baby items.

“I just get sheer joy out of it,” said April, who all together has three adult children and six grandchildren.

Anyone wishing to purchase donated goods or make a contribution to April’s Awesome Attic may click on www.facebook.com/groups/wife1020/.

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who want to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at kendallcountypads.org

Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS, said that April and her family were helped in a severe time of need and are now survivors.

She added: “PADS could not have helped them or others without our 600 volunteers. It takes a large collaborative and reliable effort to be able to offer shelter and food and kindness so that others can find help and hope.”

The nonprofit organization still needs about 75 more people to volunteer for four and a half hours one night per month in order to open the seven shelters starting next Sunday, October 21, and operating through April 20, 2019.

The nights and sites are as follows:

Sundays, Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville
Mondays, Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
Tuesdays, Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
Wednesdays: Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
Thursdays: Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
Fridays, Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego
Saturdays, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

Since its founding in 2010, Kendall County PADS has served a total of 428 homeless guests, provided 9,725 overnight stays, and served 29,209 meals including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. Homeless guests also receive help with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

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Sexual assault survivor shares story of healing and helping others to Wheaton Bible Church singles group

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By Tom Siebert

Julie Woodley was sharing the message of “me too” long before there was a Me Too movement.

The sexual assault survivor turned trauma therapist told her inspiring story Friday evening to more than 180 women and men at the Single Purpose group at Wheaton Bible Church in West Chicago.

“Women, let us rise up whether we have it right or not,” Ms. Woodley said. “You men, cherish the women in this room. Our hearts have been broken.”

Julie’s life was shattered at an early age, when her father began to molest her, threatening her with guns if she told anyone. She grew up in “dirty shame” and by high school was medicating her psychic pain with alcohol and marijuana.

Julie ran away from her home in the Rocky Mountains of Montana and wound up in St. Paul, Minnesota, living in the streets and scrounging for meals and a place to sleep. Then she began looking for love in all the wrong places and became addicted to the original sin that her dad had committed upon her.

“I became a prostitute,” she said tearfully. “I had two abortions. I became the spokesperson for Planned Parenthood.”

To add more trauma to her already-traumatized life, Julie’s best friend was murdered, prompting her to go on a bucket-list binge of drinking before deciding to commit suicide by taking a bottle of pills.

Sobbing uncontrollably, she took the bottle, but instead of consuming the deadly medicine, threw it into the trash, and shouted out: “God, save my life.”

Then she cried herself to sleep, only to be awakened by a voice, saying, “Julie, I love you.”

It was God speaking to her, Ms. Woodley told the hushed Wheaton singles group. And shortly thereafter, her life began to radically change.

Julie enrolled in nearby Northwestern College, joined a church and Bible study, got married, and had four children. She was even able to forgive her father, whom she had not seen for 17 years.

She later attended Bethel and Liberty universities, earning a master’s degree in counseling and a certificate in theological studies.

For more than 20 years, Ms. Woodley has used her past horrors to help others, especially those who have been suffering from the emotional effects of sexual assault and abortion.

“I love to work with the traumatized. I was one of the first trained therapists at 9/11,” she recalled, referring to the coordinated terrorist attacks on four U.S. targets that killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 on September 11, 2001.

Recently, Julie took on the opioid epidemic in south Florida, counseling addicts in treatment centers.

“It is time to reach out to the generation that is dying of addiction,” she implored the enthralled church audience. “Step it up.”

Ms. Woodley recently relocated to west suburban Naperville, where she continues to lead her Restoring the Heart Ministries. She has co-authored three books: Restoring the Heart: Experiencing Christ’s Healing after Brokenness; Post-Abortion Trauma: The Silent Side of Abortion; and Surviving the Storms of Life.

She is also a brain tumor and thyroid cancer survivor. Her story has been featured on several radio and TV shows, including Unshackled, Focus on the Family, The 700 Club, and Life Today.

Meanwhile, in October 2017, the Me Too movement began and spread virally on social media, calling attention to sexual assault and harassment, particularly in the workplace.

Ms. Woodley’s focus, however, is on healing, forgiveness, and moving forward.

“We are all sinners and saints,” she concluded. “Let’s reach out to a hurting world.”

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Residents can become heroes to the homeless by volunteering at a Kendall County PADS shelter

Sara

By Tom Siebert

“We can be heroes just for one day,” rock star David Bowie famously sang.

Well, area residents can feel as if they are both heroes and rock stars by volunteering for just one night per month at one of the seven temporary homeless shelters that Kendall County PADS is scheduled to open later this month.

“It’s such a rewarding experience to know that, at least for one night, you’ve helped take some of the burden off of our guests,” said Sara Poniatowski, PADS site coordinator at Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego.

Anyone interested in learning how PADS has been helping their homeless neighbors is invited to attend a new-volunteers training session from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 11, at Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, on the northwest corner of Illinois routes 34 and 47.

“People sometimes think that they need to belong to the church where the PADS site is located, or that they should have some experience working or interacting with the homeless in order to volunteer,” explained Ms. Poniatowski, who has been a volunteer for the past eight shelter seasons, the last six as a site coordinator. “We will train anyone who has a welcoming heart and a desire to serve those in need. Those two things are really all you need to get started.”

The two-hour training session will include an overview of PADS––how it operates each night and the integral role of volunteers. Attendees will learn general operational procedures, how to address health issues, and the importance of kindness to the men, women, and children who come to the shelters.

New recruits will also receive a volunteer manual and be assigned to an experienced shelter coordinator who will serve as a mentor to them. The hope is that each person attending will be informed and would feel comfortable with their role in Kendall County PADS, should they be inspired to serve. The session is free, refreshments will be served, and there is no commitment obligation.

First-time volunteers, however, are required to attend the training, which will feature representatives of the Kendall County health department and sheriff’s office as well as the Guest Assistance Program offered by social work interns from Aurora University. The GAP helps guests with employment, personal issues, and permanent housing.

During the colder months of the year, nearly 600 volunteers provide safe shelter, nourishing meals, and caring hospitality to PADS guests. Most volunteers serve one or two times each month for four and a half hours. Some of the site coordinators serve every week. PADS retains about 90 percent of its volunteers each shelter season, leaving an annual need of 100 new recruits.

Anticipating that shortage of help this year, a 14-member recruitment team has been set up to attract new volunteers through social media postings; handing out brochures to local businesses; reaching out to churches, civic groups, senior communities, and emergency/medical personnel; and setting up a database of the names of all volunteers so they can be called upon to meet staffing needs at sites other than the one for which they signed up.

The shelters are scheduled to be open one overnight per week from 7 p.m. until 7 a.m. starting on October 21 and ending on April 20, 2019. The nights and sites are as follows:

  • Sundays: Cross Lutheran Church, 8609 Route 47, Yorkville
  • Mondays: Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, Yorkville
  • Tuesdays: Harvest New Beginnings church, 5315 Douglas Road, Oswego
  • Wednesdays: Parkview Christian Academy, upper campus, 202 East Countryside Parkway, Yorkville
  • Thursdays: Trinity United Methodist Church, 2505 Boomer Lane, Yorkville
  • Fridays: Church of the Good Shepherd, 5 West Washington Street, Oswego
  • Saturdays: St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, 53 Fernwood Road, Montgomery

Since its founding in 2010, Kendall County PADS has served a total of 428 homeless guests, provided 9,725 overnight stays, and served 29,209 meals including breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at www.kendallcountypads.org.

“The training is easy and entertaining,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “Volunteering can be easier than hosting guests at your own home.”

 

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Kendall County PADS seeking women and men with a heart for the homeless

PADS volunteers

By Tom Siebert
Assistant Director for Community Relations
Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS) of Kendall County

Kendall County PADS needs more than a hundred new volunteers in order to launch its ninth season of providing nutritious food and temporary shelter to the area’s homeless community.

“Approximately sixteen volunteers are needed to staff a site each night of the week,” said Anne Engelhardt, executive director of Kendall County PADS. “Each volunteer gives four and a half hours just one time a month.”

In past years the homeless support group has faced similar shortages of volunteers but has always been able to open its seven temporary shelter sites from mid-October through mid-April.

Anticipating those challenges, a 14-member recruitment team has been established to recruit new volunteers through social media postings; handing out brochures to local businesses; reaching out to churches, senior communities, civic groups, and emergency/medical personnel; and setting up a database of the names of the estimated 600 volunteers who will be needed to operate the seven shelter sites from Oct. 21 through April 20, 2019.

“PADS is very fortunate to have recently added some very important and needed people to our organization,” Ms. Engelhardt stated. “Actually, they all are current volunteers and have stepped up to help in some new ways.”

One of those is Sandie Demierre, the new assistant director for volunteer recruitment.

“We are laying the foundation for recruiting volunteers,” said Ms. Demierre, who attends Harvest New Beginnings church, which has hosted PADS guests ever since the organization began serving the local homeless in 2010. “I’m very excited about this.”

Anyone interested in learning how PADS has been helping their homeless neighbors is invited to attend a new volunteer training session from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 11, at the Yorkville Congregational United Church of Christ, 409 Center Parkway, on the northwest corner of Illinois Routes 34 and 47.

Prospective volunteers are encouraged to attend the training, a panel presentation by experienced shelter coordinators as well as representatives of the Kendall County health department and the sheriff’s office. Attendees will hear about the needs of people experiencing homelessness and how the shelter program addresses those needs. They will also learn the roles and responsibilities of various volunteer positions such as shift worker, laundry driver, and food team member.

There will also be a representative from the Guest Assistance Program offered by social work interns from Aurora University. The GAP helps guests with employment, permanent housing, and personal issues.

Moreover, those who attend will receive a copy of the PADS volunteer manual, have an opportunity to speak with site coordinators, and not be required to make a commitment to volunteer.

However, Ms. Engelhardt hopes they will be inspired to do so. She not only serves as executive director of Kendall County PADS but also helps out in a hands-on way at the shelter site at her church.

“As a volunteer with PADS, I have a unique opportunity to directly help the homeless people in our area,” she said. “My contribution of just a few hours each month makes a difference in the lives of others with many needs. Also, I enjoy the camaraderie of working with other volunteers. We all experience the gift of giving.”

Overnight guests at PADS receive a hot meal, a safe place to sleep, breakfast, and a packaged lunch to go. They also receive help with employment, social services, and housing referrals.

PADS of Kendall County is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) group funded by donations received from grants, gifts, individuals, organizations, and businesses. Those who wish to donate or volunteer may call (630) 553-5073 or visit the website at www.kendallcountypads.org.

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Oswego area churches seeking donations for annual Back to School Clinic at St. Luke’s Lutheran

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By Tom Siebert

As the beginning of the school year approaches, Oswego area churches are helping their own families in need of food, clothing, and supplies. But while the churches’ charity may begin at home, it does not end there.

That’s why St. Luke’s Lutheran is hosting the fifth annual area-wide Back to School Clinic from 9 a.m. until noon on Saturday, August 4, at the church, located at 63 Fernwood Road in Boulder Hill, unincorporated Kendall County.

“The doors will be open to everyone who has the need,” said Mariann Benda, a member of St. Luke’s and the coordinator of the event. “We have volunteers from all over the community.”

However, Ms. Benda added that St. Luke’s could always use more volunteers as well as donations of backpacks, school supplies, and new or gently used clothing. Those interested in helping in any way may contact the church at (630) 892-9309.

In addition, local barbers and stylists will be providing free haircuts at the clinic, while Half Price Books will be offering free books.

“Last year we served more than 300 students,” Ms. Benda said. “It’s getting bigger every year.”

In addition to St. Luke’s, co-sponsors of the Back to School Clinic include Church of the Good Shepherd in Oswego; Kendall County Food Pantry; Kendall County Health Department; Long Beach Elementary School, Oswego; Oswego Public Library; River’s Edge Fellowship, Boulder Hill; Rush-Copley Medical Center, Aurora; Thrivent Financial; VNA Health Care, Aurora; Waubonsee Community College; and Wheatland Salem Church.

 

 

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Legendary singer/songwriter Paul Simon shows Chicago audience that he is still amazing after all these years

Paul Simon

By Tom Siebert

More than 17,000 concert-goers gathered last night at the aptly named United Center to hear legendary musician Paul Simon present his classic songs and eclectic sounds.

The poet-prophet opened the Chicago stop of his 42-date Homeward Bound farewell tour with the melancholy “America,” an epic folk anthem that many Baby Boomers in the audience first heard on the 1968 Simon & Garfunkel album Bookends.

Younger people in the crowd recognized it as the campaign song for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont when he ran for president in 2016.

But whether they were introduced to Mr. Simon’s ubiquitous music on an LP or an elevator, the whole, happy throng sang, danced, clapped, and cried throughout the dazzling 26-song set that featured American standards as well as deep-catalogue gems.

“I would say this is my favorite city, but I’m not contractually allowed to say that,” he quipped to his Windy City fans, who cheered enthusiastically. “But it’s true.”

The second song performed was the 1975 chart-topper, “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” opening with Jim Oblon’s military drum riff, followed by Mr. Simon’s smooth, Sinatra-style lyrics.

“The problem is all inside your head, she said to me/The answer is easy if you take it logically.”

And when the tune shifted gears into its funky romp, much of the United Center crowd was on their feet, singing along and perhaps recalling how they were once inspired to exit a toxic relationship.

“You just slip out the back, Jack/Make a new plan, Stan/Don’t need to be coy, Roy, just listen to me/Hop on the bus, Gus, don’t need to discuss much/Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.”

A virtuoso guitar player himself, Mr. Simon was accompanied by a nine-member, multi-instrumental ensemble, plus the chamber-music sextet yMusic, which National Public Radio has ordained the “future of classical music.”

Led by Rhymin’ Simon, the big-sounding band took the audience on an “It’s a Small World” cultural ride that spanned the globe of musical genres.

There was the Jamaican reggae of Mr. Simon’s 1971 hit “Mother and Child Reunion,” the Brazilian samba of 1972’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” the African pop/chant of 1986’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” and the catchy electronic funk of “Wristband” from his latest studio album, 2016’s Stranger to Stranger.

For many of us, the sounds of Simon were indeed the soundtrack of our lives. He is arguably the greatest singer/songwriter of his generation. While not as influential as Bob Dylan, his music was more accessible to the masses. And in the late 1960s, Simon and his singing partner Art Garfunkel sold more records than a little band called The Beatles.

For the record, Mr. Simon has earned sixteen Grammy awards, is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and was the first recipient of the Library of Congress’s Gershwin Award for Popular Song.

While ever expanding the horizons of his artistic vision, the five-foot-three music giant went truly global in 1985 when he traveled to apartheid South Africa, breaking the performers boycott of that country, collaborating with accomplished local musicians, and producing his masterwork Graceland, which won Grammy Album of the Year honors.

The mega-hit from that game-changing album, “You Can Call Me Al,” was the showstopper of the Chicago concert. Mr. Simon jokingly calls the song the national anthem “because everyone stands up for it.” The United Center crowd was no exception, aided in their joyful singing by a jumbo backdrop screen that featured flashes of the song’s colorful lyrics.

“I need a photo opportunity/I want a shot of redemption/Don’t want to end up a cartoon/In a cartoon graveyard.”

If you really want to see how music can demolish barriers of class and color, watch the YouTube video of Mr. Simon singing “You Can Call Me Al” in 1987 at a sold-out soccer stadium in Zimbabwe, Africa, where blacks and whites danced jubilantly together.

More than thirty years later, he is still bringing people together. The Homeward Bound tour heads to Europe later this month, and then returns to the states in the fall for three shows at Madison Square Garden and a to-be-announced location in New York City.

The music world is swirling with rumors that Mr. Simon will again stage a free concert in Central Park, as he did with Mr. Garfunkel in 1981, and as a solo act in 1991, performing before a total of a million people–maybe more.

On this final tour, he is pointedly not singing his magnum opus, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” Perhaps he is saving the high-pitched hymn for his childhood chum “Artie” in a surprise appearance?

I am skeptical about “farewell tours,” having attended The Who’s allegedly last concert, at the Los Angeles Coliseum––in 1982.

Addressing the question of whether he was really retiring, Mr. Simon was not coy, Roy.

“I’m going to continue writing music,” he assured his loyal fans, who responded with hearty applause.

At 76, Mr. Simon’s voice is rustproof. And his fingers still fly up and down the fret of his guitar. He even danced during the opening accordion of the zydeco-tinged “She Was Your Mother.”

Moreover, he is still reinventing his music, modulating keys, changing phrasings, and graciously cuing his fellow musicians when it’s their time to shine. One of the many band standouts last night was Andy Snitzer’s heavenly sax solo on the jazzy “Still Crazy After All These Years,” the title track from Mr. Simon’s 1975 Grammy Album of the Year.

The youthful members of yMusic encircled the cerebral singer during the 1990 tune “Can’t Run But,” immaculately playing, respectively––the violin, viola, cello, flute, clarinet and trumpet.

The sextet also created the mood and movement for “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War,” a surreal 1983 song that Mr. Simon explained was inspired by a book that he randomly picked up at Joan Baez’ house while visiting the famed folksinger.

Also starring during the two-and-a-half-hour concert were keyboard wizard Mick Rossi as well as gifted guitarists Mark Stewart and Bakithi Kumalo, he of the iconic slap-bass run on “You Can Call Me Al.” Mr. Simon’s other longtime guitar player, Vincent Nguini, died last December, one of the reasons the performer has given for his decision to stop touring.

Mr. Nguini’s replacement, Biodun Kuti, was equally stellar, especially on “Spirit Voices” and “The Obvious Child,” both tracks from The Rhythm of the Saints, Mr. Simon’s blockbuster 1990 follow-up to Graceland.

A harbinger of the singer’s post-touring career may have been when he performed the environmentally conscious “Questions for the Angels” from the critically acclaimed 2011 album So Beautiful So What. It is easy to envision the longtime philanthropist playing benefit concerts on behalf of saving the planet and other peaceful causes.

The first of three encore sets was kicked off by the title track from Graceland, a Sun Records-rooted song that brilliantly describes a rite-of-passage pilgrimage to the Elvis Presley mansion-museum.

“The Mississippi Delta was shining/Like a national guitar/I am following the river/Down the highway/Through the cradle of the Civil War/I’m going to Graceland.”

Then there was the irresistible 1973 hit “Kodachrome,” which includes one of the most clever and clairvoyant lines ever written.

“And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none/I can read the writing on the wall.”

Nearly a half century ago, Mr. Simon wrote prophetically, “Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest,” predicting our present dark age of alternative facts and fake news.

The hallowed song from which those perspicacious lyrics came, “The Boxer,” was perfected in the second encore session by Mr. Simon’s wistful voice and finger-picking guitar mastery––plus, a freight-train rhythm, crashing cymbals, and solemn trumpet solo by yMusic’s C.J. Camerieri.

It is still an astonishing song, with multi-layered lyrics that change narratives from a youth’s leaving-home lament to a third-person portrait of a battered prizefighter.

“In the clearing stands a boxer/And a fighter by his trade/And he carries the reminders/Of ev’ry glove that laid him down/Or cut him till he cried out/In his anger and his shame/I am leaving, I am leaving/But the fighter still remains.”

Mr. Simon joyously and generously shared the plaintive hook with the animated, emotional crowd.

“Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie/Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie.”

The 1966 ballad “Homeward Bound” off the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme was made particularly poignant by a slideshow that traced Mr. Simon’s journey from “a poet and a one-man band” to a world-renowned composer for the ages.

Finally, the fitting last encore was “The Sound of Silence,” the 1965 breakthrough single that propelled the voices of Simon & Garfunkel into the collective neurons of the nation’s consciousness.

Alone in the spotlight with his acoustic guitar, Paul gave his all, singing the timeless lyrics passionately and powerfully.

“Hello, darkness, my old friend/I’ve come to talk with you again/Because a vision softly creeping/Left its seeds while I was sleeping/And the vision that was planted in my brain/Still remains/Within the sound of silence.”

The transcendent song was a soft exclamation point to an almost spiritual night. The audience cheered and clapped for more than two minutes, as Mr. Simon clasped his hands together in a prayer-like expression of gratitude.

All of this was apropos for a musician whose songs have always been replete with religious references:

“Jesus loves you more than you will know” from “Mrs. Robinson”; “These are the days of miracles and wonders” from “The Boy in the Bubble”; and “He sees angels in the architecture/Spinning in infinity/He says, Amen and ‘Hallelujah!” from “You Can Call Me Al.”

So whether we are blessed to hear Paul Simon sing again here on earth––or in the hereafter––his vision will remain.

 

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Democrat Howard Dean and Republican Newt Gingrich speak, not spar, during World Leaders Forum at Judson University

Dean-Gingrich

By Tom Siebert

Former Vermont Governor Howard Dean did not scream, as the Democrat had following his loss in the 2004 Iowa presidential caucuses. And ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich did not seem like “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” as he was depicted a decade earlier on a Newsweek magazine cover after he led Republicans to the control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

Instead, the two legendary political figures generated more light than heat in a friendly forum titled “A Bipartisan Conversation About Leadership in Divided Times” at the 2018 World Leaders Forum at Judson University in Elgin, northwest of Chicago.

“It is possible for us to sit down together even though the two parties have different philosophies,” said the liberal Mr. Dean, standing appropriately on the left side of the stage, while the conservative Mr. Gingrich stood proudly on the right.

Last week, Mr. Gingrich made national news headlines when he compared federal agents who seized documents from one of President Trump‘s attorneys to the Gestapo, the notorious secret police in 1940s Nazi Germany. But the former House speaker spoke in a decidedly different tone at the Judson event.
“When people view ‘the other side’ as ‘the enemy,’ it gets dangerous because people suffer when politics break down,” he said. “Great accomplishments are made in this country when people practice cheerful persistence and strong listening skills. If you ask the right questions, you can often help guide people to solve their own problems.”

 

Mr. Dean agreed: “America’s political system was designed for cooperation, and somewhere along the line, we lost our way. All that said–I’m optimistic about the future because of our younger generation, a powerful group of socially tolerant, respectful individuals who are eager to work together.”

Apart from their political views, the differing duo has a lot in common. They are both doctors: Mr. Dean is a physician and Mr. Gingrich earned a Ph.D. in history. They each led their parties to reclaim majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives, Dr. Gingrich as speaker in 1994 and Dr. Dean as chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2006.

Moreover, the two worked for the same law firm, are commentators for competing cable news channels, and were once front runners for their respective party’s presidential nominations.

“I didn’t get to be president but my wife did,” quipped Mr. Gingrich, referring to his unsuccessful 2012 race and the fact that his wife Callista later became president of a neighborhood association in their Virginia suburb. She is now U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

Mr. Dean joked about his self-described “red-faced rant” in which he exuberantly tried to rally his supporters in the aftermath of his crushing third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses in January 2004.

“Just for the record, I didn’t lose the presidential nomination because of my ‘I Have a Scream’ speech,” he said, acknowledging that his campaign was in trouble long before the hot-mike mistake in which he shouted out the names of the upcoming state primaries that he hoped to win.

Thursday’s event marked the eighth World Leaders Forum at Judson. Previous keynote speakers were former President George W. Bush, ex-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev, ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan.

“Our world has become increasingly divided along political lines, and Judson University is honored to host a conversation highlighting the importance of civility in political discourse,” said Judson President Gene Crume. “We believe in presenting our campus and our community with a balanced approach to understanding divergent ideologies by fostering respectful dialogue.”

For participating in the forum/fundraiser, Mr. Dean and Mr. Gingrich were given vintage Elgin watches, commemorating the city’s history as onetime home to a world-renowned watchmaking company.

However, Mayor David Kaptain told the Judson audience that Elgin is more well known today as the inspiration for the city in which television character “Roseanne” and her fictional family reside.

“Elgin is one of the most diverse cities in the country,” the mayor bragged. “We are a model of middle-class America. And we are very proud of that.”

Mr. Kaptain said later that the forum was “wonderful,” adding that the Elgin City Council is an example of bipartisanship. “That’s what we do every day–set aside our differences.”

Judson students also gave rave reviews of the political discussion.

“I thought it was very interesting,” said Claire Konnor, a freshman majoring in architecture. “It was a good idea to have two people with opposing views.”

Ms. Konnor also said that many millennials such as her became more interested in politics after the “controversial” presidential election victory of real estate developer/reality TV star Donald J. Trump over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Andrew Kennedy, a biochemistry and premed major, said that not all Judson students are conservative, as might be expected at a Christian university.

The senior explained: “Some are conservative, some are liberal, and some are in the middle.”

The goal of the World Leaders Forum is to present Judson students and the Chicagoland community with an opportunity to be inspired by significant thought leaders. Proceeds fund Judson Leadership Scholarships and innovative entrepreneurial activities as well as support ongoing operations of the Forum.

Located in Elgin since 1963, Judson affords students a Christian, liberal arts and sciences education through its bachelor of arts degrees in more than 60 majors, minors, and graduate programs. The university also offers online courses, in addition to certification and accelerated adult-degree programs. For more information, visit www.JudsonU.edu.

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