|"In Their Own Words" 6th in a series by RFFM.org|
by Sen. Chris Lauzen "In His Own Words"
To commemorate RFFM.org's 15 years of service to the conservative community, we will be conducting a series of monthly interviews throughout 2007 with some of the most influential leaders in the pro-family/conservative movement. RFFM.org's national director, Daniel Zanoza, will conduct Q + A sessions with the aim of educating our readers as to some of the views held by those who work tirelessly to reach their stated goals.
JUNE 28, 2007
The sixth interview in RFFM.org's series continues with Illinois state Sen. Chris Lauzen
Chris Lauzen has served in the Illinois State Senate since his election in 1992 and has championed issues that matter to families and businesses. Senator Lauzen was raised in Aurora, Illinois. He earned a B.A. in Management Science and English from Duke University in 1974. Senator Lauzen continued his education at Harvard, graduating with an MBA degree in 1978. He is also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) awarded by the University of Illinois.
While Senator Lauzen is proud of his accomplishment as a businessman and lawmaker, he is most proud of his role as a husband and father. Senator Lauzen and his wife, Sarah, are the parents of four boys: Ted, Elliot, Hans and Robbie.
Q. You are currently celebrating 15 years as a member of the Illinois General Assembly. How do you feel your service has impacted the community? What kind of legacy do you think you have left behind for others to follow?
A. These days I don't really feel that I'm "celebrating" 15 years of service, but I am still trying to do my best for my constituents and their families. Sixteen years ago, when I first ran for office, I promised three things. There were no promises of jobs for friends, cushy contacts for contributors, or even a road through anyone's town. Instead, I promised to work hard, stay honest and use common sense in making the decisions that affect 212,000 people in the district I serve. Those promises have been kept.
I try to set a good example by listening to people and responding to every contact from those who send me to Springfield. I return every phone call and answer every piece of constituent correspondence personally. I have scrupulously avoided enriching myself or any friends by my public service. In fact, where I used to be paid by clients seven times what I'm now paid by the state -- and my clients used to do what I suggested (!) -- I lose sleep some nights, just like my constituents do, about how I'm going to get the bills paid with two sons in college. But, in a way, that's how it should be because I can truly understand the anxiety of those who call my office.
Q. What do you believe have been your most important accomplishments as an elected official and what would you like to accomplish in the future?
A. The best years of my career so far were those when there was an active core of truly committed majority senators - the "Fab Five" - Fitzgerald, O'Malley, Rauschenberger, Syverson and me. We were successful with the help of many other conscientious legislators in pushing budget process reforms like "Truth-in-Budgeting" where we effectively would have only one set of books in Illinois, rather than two, i.e. one going to the New York bankers on the thorough accrual method of accounting and the other set sent to the folks back home on the incomplete cash basis. We also led the fight for fiscal responsibility in "Truth-in-Pensions" where we passed into law a 50-year "mortgage" to fully-fund the amounts that had been raided by previous administrations and general assemblies. We paid every cent on that mortgage for 10 years. Naturally, I was disappointed when many of these reforms were not reinforced by the Executive Branch after 1998. And, now the public pensions have been raided for a staggering $2,300,000,000 by Chicago Democrats and their enablers.
In the future, I hope to continue to hold big spenders accountable and liable for the disastrous consequences of their irresponsible actions through my work on the Appropriations and Revenue Committees and as co-chairman of the Legislative Audit Commission. Winston Churchill once quoted Alexander the Great as saying, "The people of Asia (in his time) are slaves because they have forgotten the meaning and how to say 'No'." I have many weaknesses; but the inability to say "No" when needed is not one of them.
Q. What are the most urgent issues or problems facing Illinois today? What are the chances these issues will be resolved?
A. The Ruling Majorities are handing a financial mess to our children and grandchildren in an environment that reminds many of a circus rather than a self-governing legislature that good men and women have died for. They are destroying the working middle class by strangling small business initiatives while expanding a pathetic entitlement attitude by a growing number of Illinois residents. The current administration lies without shame, diverts funds without rationale like $650M per year in gas taxes, and attempts to intimidate those who resist.
But, the worst crime of all is what is happening to the education of our kids. You cannot read important books on social justice and education in America without becoming furious and despondent. How can we consistently say that we love all children in society when decades of evidence demonstrate that we condemn tens of thousands of students each year in Illinois alone to self-serving and stagnant education bureaucracies? The sentence meted out to innocent children by adults in charge is a litany of failure. As Jonathan Kozol wrote in Savage Inequalities in 1991, "If one knows the future that awaits them (kindergarteners), it is terrible to see their eyes look up at you with friendliness and trust -- to see this and to know what is in store for them"(Pg. 45). The ugly obvious truth is we really don't love all children. We may love our own, but we certainly don't love all children.
Until we treat "all" like we treat "ours", we will not be absolved from the travesty that monopoly centralization has created. Until our tax money follows each child and every parent is empowered with the resources that are currently assigned to education bureaucracies, there will continue to be deep social resentments and failure. Only the equal opportunity and true freedom of "educational choice" can guarantee justice. Why especially minority political leaders don't embrace this important truth is just beyond my comprehension.
Q. You have a reputation of being an independent spirit in the Illinois General Assembly. Has this helped or hindered your efforts as a legislator?
A. Although my independence has hurt me politically in Springfield, it certainly helps me back home among my constituents and allows me to sleep comfortably. It amazes me that the way to advance in the political environment 200 miles away from constituents is to break promises of fiscal conservatism and to vote for tax and debt increases. Like hungry hyenas, those who destroy the financial condition of our state tear apart our carcass and feed with selfish appetites. In the first twelve years of my work, the defining moment of truth, in terms of independence, came when I was the only senator in either party to speak against George Ryan's "Illinois First". As gently and respectfully as I could, I pointed to Ryan's pre-election promise to not raise taxes, the lack of any list where $11 Billion was going to be spent, and no concessions - from especially road builders - that we would get a better product than roads that buckled after seven to eight years, like patches on Lake Shore Drive and the Stevenson Expressway. After I got the threatening call a day later from Ryan and his reminder that he had given me a $10,000 contribution during the state-wide campaign, I started the three-month process of raising the money to voluntarily give him (Ryan) his money back. "If that's what your contribution meant, you'll get your money back."
One of the many current struggles in Illinois is the direct election of Republican central committeemen. It cannot be more obvious that the existing Republican Party leadership has delivered embarrassing and dangerous total failure, i.e. all constitutional offices held by Democrats, a substantial majority of Democrats in the House, and an incredible super-majority in the Senate. Yet, they desperately hold on to their power for personal gain.
Instead, the people who vote in Republican Primaries should elect the party's board of directors. Democrats do it this way. Republicans did it this way before Jim Thompson consolidated his power in 1986. And, we are fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan, in part, over the principle that the people, not the politicians, should be sovereign. I sponsored and the Senate unanimously passed SB600 two years ago that contained the necessary reform language that would allow every citizen who votes in a Republican Primary to select the Republican Party equivalent of our board of directors. Again, recently I inserted this common sense improvement for Republicans in HB1752. In both cases, reformers had cooperation from Democrats, but Tom Cross and “Skip” Saviano, in the first attempt, and Andy McKenna, either directly or indirectly in the more recent case, frustrated the efforts to put Republicans back into an effective two-party balance of power.
Q. You have been a longtime advocate for pro-family legislation in Illinois. With the political setbacks Republicans have experienced recently, do you look to the future from a positive perspective or do you see great setbacks for the conservative agenda in the state?
A. I am hopeful. It takes a while but the great "silent majority" of people in this state and America mobilize when they finally understand what some leaders are trying to do to them. This fact is evident in policies toward immigration policy and homosexual behavior. John F. Kennedy said, "Our nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty, and defiance of the law (in this case, immigration and employment laws) is the surest road to tyranny. Americans are free, in short, to disagree with the law but not to disobey it. For no man, however prominent and powerful, and no mob, however unruly and boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law." We are seeing the impact on our county's social harmony and even on wage rates of disregarding this advice. But, the people are pushing back.
The so-called cultural elite are trying to convince, especially our youth, that homosexual behavior is natural, and even "cool." Yet facts are stubborn things. Even though it seems that our spiritual leaders have not been successful in making the convincing moral argument in what is becoming an amoral society, physical science is confirming that life expectancy for those who practice homosexual behavior is substantially reduced. Once this information is freely and openly distributed the great majority of Americans will see this destructive choice for what it really is. My hope is that this realization and others will help us turn back to respect for traditional family values and self-discipline.
Q. Obviously, there are many people who would like to see you run for U.S. Congress. What are your plans in this area?
A. On June 1, my wife Sarah and I filed papers to run for Congress. Once again, I will promise to work hard, stay honest, and use the same common sense that you do in the conduct of your family and business affairs.
My priorities in serving the 14th District will be faith, family, and American competitiveness. To me, faith is not judgmental and dogmatic. It is divine assurance that there is order in the universe and politicians are not the center of that order, and that the fundamental command given by Jesus' life's example is to love our neighbor the best we can. A nurtured family is the gift that keeps giving. Love and duty within a family are the most effective and efficient energies to raise healthy and happy children to become productive adults and to care for our elderly. I came from a very dysfunctional family growing up and felt the pain. I'm grateful everyday for the answer to my prayers as a boy that Sarah and I have been happily married for nearly 26 years, caring for each other and our four children.
Finally, American peace and prosperity requires American strength and competitiveness, good health, sound education and a focus on American jobs. I was taught in business school that we produce wealth by growing it, mining it, manufacturing it, storing it, or counting it. But, life is teaching me that the foundation to all of this is freedom and responsibility. How we implement these core principles in a competitive global economy is one of our crucial challenges in the 21st century.
Q. From your point of view, what are the most important issues facing America at this time?
A. To grow in faith, to strengthen traditional families, and to recognize the need to compete against a global standard in order to prosper are the most important challenges facing America. We should not squander our strength by centralization, protection of bureaucracy and status quo, or complacency that someone else will take care of us. Self-reliance, individual responsibility, liberty, control of a limited government, free enterprise and traditional values are the bedrock of our future growth.
Q. What are some of the most important lessons you have learned in life? Please explain how you apply these lessons in your work as an elected official.
A. The most important test of the past 15 years of my life has been perseverance. Although I was not blessed with an abundance of the virtue of patience, the lesson that I have been taught through hard experience is that the person who disagrees with you feels every bit as strongly about the correctness of his/her opinion as you do about yours. Feeling what they feel -- fear, pain, humiliation, love and exhilaration -- is the beginning of communication and hope.
Finally, I thank Dan and Julie Zanoza for their years of friendship and service to others. And, I extend my best wishes to each of you and your families. Life is short, be patient, persevere, trust in God.
Sen. Chris Lauzen can be contacted at his legislative office: (630) 264-2419