Well, I've been following the Dennis Hastert news for the last few days and originally I chose not to write about it. My phone has been blowing up the last few days along with my email so maybe I should write down my thoughts on the matter.
As many people know, I am a proud native of Yorkville, Illinois which has been in the national news lately due to former Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert being indicted. A lot of people graduate from there and live the rest of their lives there. Most of my kindergarten class were at the same graduation party. Nobody moves.
I moved to Yorkville when I was 4 years old. I am a graduate of Yorkville High School. Yes, I do know Mr. Hastert fairly well. I have known him since I was 10 years old. Until recent events, I always felt that if I left a phone message at his office that he would certainly return my call. I never had a need to do that though.
Let me be perfectly clear, I am not here to defend Mr. Hastert over what he may or may not have done. Many of my friends have been doing that to the press over the last few days and I know them all. We are all shocked bout this story. Mr. Hastert is quite capable of defending himself. I kind of chuckle at the comments section of articles and blogs with people wanting to take him out back and show him a thing or two. Even at the age of 73, Mr. Hastert could whip the snot out of most men half his age.
Yorkville is a unique place with a huge amount of sports success. I'll spare the details because that's a blog of its own. When we moved there it was a town of 1200. Now it's approximately 17,000. As a 5th grader I went to Parkview Middle School and on my first day with the new kids I got into a fist fight. I figured a few punches and a teacher would break it up. A huge crowd surrounded us. After 5 minutes and at least 50 punches a teacher broke it up and put me on my bus. The next day nothing happened. No detentions, no suspensions, no lectures. That's just the way Yorkville is. Not really good at talking and reasoning maybe, but we respected each other. My mouth got me in trouble a lot but I learned to give as good as I took. My head still has knots to this day from my teenage days. That's just the way it was!
In high school, Mr. Hastert was my history teacher for 5-6 courses. A very good teacher I might add. He had a civil war diary from a Illinois soldier and he brought it out from time to time and read it aloud. He wanted us to know what war was really like. Another time he had us write a letter to ourselves and mailed it to us a year later. I still have that letter to this day. Another time he came in and told us about the dinner he had with a former governor that he was supporting for President. If it wasn't for an early flight that man was going to visit our class. His name was Ronald Reagan.
It wasn't until years later that I disagreed politically with Mr. Hastert. I still considered him a friend. I was the Captain of the cross country team and he had his wrestlers run with us to keep in shape. I spoke with him everyday at high school.
The last time I spoke with him was at a parade in Oswego. Before that I chatted with him several hours at a wrestling meet in Naperville. I never once saw a single act of misconduct in all the years I've known him. Supposedly the other party involved was a member of my class or the year before me. My last year of high school was also his and he entered politics.
The best speech I've ever heard was his 1979 commencement speech. He pointed out how excellent of a athletic school we were. But he also pointed out that we were smart. The band and speech teams were winning their competitions also. Our school loved winning. I didn't think much about going to college until that moment. And Coach Jakalski further spurred on those efforts and I did graduate in 4 years.
I will withhold judgment until all the facts come out. But I'm tired of people taking shots in their internet frenzy comments regarding what kind of people live in Yorkville, Illinois. We've been called rednecks and river rats my whole life. Most of my classmates still live there. My dad moved away not too many years ago. If you really want to call them names venture to downtown Yorkville. They will talk to you, I promise you that. I also guarantee that they might speak in a style that you're not accustomed to. That's just the way it is!