SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – A bill introduced in the State Capitol would honor the legacy of two U.S. presidents with ties to Illinois with statues: Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan.
“Reagan was a Republican, Obama’s a Democrat,” State Sen. Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City), the bill’s sponsor, said. “It seems like if we had a more bipartisan part of this, it might be more receptive with everyone in the House and in the Senate.”
President Obama represented Illinois as a U.S. Senator before he ran for the Oval Office. He later made history becoming the first African American to hold the highest office in the country.
He announced his run for that position at the Old State Capitol on Feb. 10, 2007, and a plaque now sits at the site commemorating that historic moment.
“And that is why in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where [Abraham] Lincoln once called on a house divided to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still live, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America,” Obama said that day.
As for President Reagan, he attended Eureka College which is in Bennett’s district. The 40th president was born in Tampico, on the western side of the state, eventually moving to what is now referred to as his “boyhood home” in Dixon.
“If anybody engages at all with any of President Ronald Reagan’s autobiographies, or looks at any of his speeches, you can find an incredible impact that Dixon, Ill. played on Ronald Reagan’s life, or rather the entire state of Illinois,” Kyle Ferrebee, director of the Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home with the Young America’s Foundation, said. “Ronald Reagan was very proud of his midwestern heritage.”
Bennett said he has also been working on a separate bill that focuses on getting a statue just for Reagan.
He added that the finances for the statues haven’t been figured out yet but he said money for the Reagan statue would come from private funding.
“We would put forth a campaign to raise the funds,” Bennett said. “Of course, he went to Eureka College, we would reach out to those folks and folks in California where they have the museum there for Reagan, and he’s a very beloved president across the country.”
While it’s unclear where statues of Obama and Reagan could potentially go, a new statue of Martin Luther King Jr. could soon be on its way in Springfield. Governor Pritzker signed a bill that would allocate half a million dollars towards the project.