The annual Truman dinner, which is a fundraising event that brings Democrats across Kane County together each year, was held on February 26 at the Q Center in St. Charles. Both state and national elected representatives were present. The evening began with an introduction by Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias who praised Mark Guethle and the organizations in Kane County that worked to turn Kane County blue. He discussed one of his heroes, former President Jimmy Carter, who has dedicated his life to public service during his presidency and after leaving office. Carter is an example of how volunteers working together can have a huge impact on society.
Giannoulias was followed by state treasurer, Mike Frerichs, who discussed the differences between the administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the administration of Gov. Bruce Rauner. Under Bruce Rauner, the state had credit downgrades and was behind in paying its bills. Since Gov. Pritzker took office, Illinois has had seven upgrades and bills are paid when they are received. State programs that Rauner cut have been reinstated so that families and children have what they need to thrive.
Congressman Bill Foster, who represents the 11th district of IL also discussed credit downgrades since he is a member of the House Banking Committee, which discusses the federal budget. Foster emphasized that the vote on the debt ceiling will be coming soon, and Democrats and Republicans have to reach an agreement to avoid a downgrade that could bring government and federal payments to a halt, cause a recession, and affect the everyday lives of Americans dependent on Social Security, VA benefits, and government programs. Republicans have been threatening to use social security as a bargaining chip in order to reach an agreement with Democrats, but they backed down when President Joe Biden revealed the Republican plan in his State of the Union speech. Foster has also been meeting with mayors in his district to discuss funding needed for infrastructure, environmental, and educational programs
in their cities.
Lauren Underwood, IL Representative for the 14th District, has been working to ensure that everyone has healthcare since she took office four years ago. She is proud of her work on the Healthcare Affordability Act, which guarantees that families will not spend more than 8 and 1/2 % of their income on a healthcare policy. Currently 340,000 people in IL have signed up at healthcare.gov. Underwood also introduced the Job Protection Act, which ensures that workers taking family medical leave do not have to worry about losing their job. Like Foster, Lauren has been meeting with mayors throughout the 11th district to sponsor legislation for small businesses in their areas and gain infrastructure funding. Lauren obtained federal funds for education programs so that early childhood centers can get financial support from the YMCA.
These inspiring speakers were followed by the keynote speaker, Patti Vasquez, a well-known comedian and radio personality on WCPT 820 a.m. Patti spoke about how everyone has an origin story, and your story is your way to connect with others. She grew up in a home filled with love and humor and said that she used humor in her childhood to escape from some of the trauma that her family survived, including the loss of her brother.
When her son Declan was diagnosed with a neurological disorder, Patti realized how devastating the words of others could be to families with disabled children. She started her own company “With Kind Words” to teach doctors, educators, and others in the community to communicate with compassion and kindness. During the term of Bruce Rauner, Patti decided to run for office. She saw the impact of budget cuts on families with disabled children when one of her neighbors went to drop off her child for therapy and was told that her son’s program had been immediately discontinued. Patti emphasized that these programs can be lifesaving to families even when an outsider sees the child’s improvement as small steps. One example is Applied Behavior Analysis where a therapist taught Declan to point and make choices for things he wanted. For the first time, Declan was able to communicate with his parents.
The evening concluded with awards for service to the Kane County Democrats. The two award recipients were Frank Imhoff and Janean Larson.
Frank received the Truman Award for his service to the county. He served as Chair of the Elgin Township Democrats from 2010-2014 and then served as their parliamentarian and as a PCP before moving to St. Charles in 2020. In St. Charles, Frank has served as a PCP and also keeps the Kane Dems office open to answer questions and supply signs or other items that are needed throughout the county. Janean received the Chairman’s Award. Since 2016, she has volunteered throughout the county, putting up election signs wherever needed. In 2017, she took a bus trip to D.C. and joined women who participated in the Women’s March on Washington and demonstrated the day after Trump’s presidential inauguration. The goal was to advocate for human rights, which included women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and equality for people of color and immigrants. Both Frank and Janean exemplify service not only to the community but also to the nation as they work for the rights every human being should have.