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Foster talks of public service before Joliet Job Corps grads

Feb 11, 2013
In The News

Dedicating at least a part of your life to public service is a lesson U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, learned from his father, who helped write federal Civil Rights legislation.

He encouraged students at the Joliet Job Corps winter commencement to discover how they can also serve others.

“Like me, my father was trained as a scientist, and during World War II he designed fire control computers for the Navy. During his service, he started getting reports on how many people were killed — this week — by the equipment his team built. And he became very unhappy at the idea of his scientific skills being used that way,” he said.

“When he came back from the war he decided he wanted to spend part of his life in service to his fellow man. He became a civil-rights lawyer, and went on to write much of the enforcement language behind the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — one of the greatest steps forward for human rights in the history of our country.

“Reading through his papers made me think of the fundamental question that everyone has to answer: What fraction of your life do you spend in service to your fellow man?” he said.

“For me, the idea of not spending a significant fraction of my life in service to my fellow man did not feel right. And that’s why I decided to run for office,” he said.

“And in that political career there have been a lot of ups and downs: The triumph of voting for Obamacare and Wall Street reform, the defeat during the Tea Party election and the triumph of being returned to office in the last election,” he said.

A newly elected congressman for the new 11th District, Foster pledged to support Job Corps, a federally funded program that educates and trains low-income students.

Ninety students earned a high school diploma or GED and completed a trade to participate in graduation. Because the program is self-paced, some had left the residential campus earlier, like Salutatorian Josh Hamilton, 25, of Cicero. Others, like Valedictorian Ebony Hampton, 21, of Chicago, are continuing studies.

The center gave out three awards; one to Foster, one to Jim Reeb of Joliet, who has volunteered as a math tutor for a year; and one to Demetria Carr of Daybreak, Catholic Charities. Students intern at Daybreak in culinary, security, facility maintenance and office administration under her supervision.

Will County Executive Larry Walsh echoed Foster’s remarks about public service and commitment to both the community and America. “Forty-seven years ago, I was on this stage as I graduated (from Joliet East High School),” he said. “So being here always means a lot to me.”