Bob Michel: One of the greatest of the greatest generation
Bob Michel’s life reflects the perfect definition of what Tom Brokaw called “The Greatest Generation.” Bob was raised by two loving parents with his two sisters in Peoria. He learned his strong Midwestern values of faith in God, hard work and play by the rules from his family.
Bob and Corinne raised their four children Scott, Bruce, Laurie and Robin in Peoria. Bob served his country for 50 years as a decorated World War II war hero, as an American hero to his constituents from the 18th Congressional District and as a teacher for those of us who had the great privilege of working with him.
I consider myself a graduate of THE ROBERT H. MICHEL SCHOOL OF APPLIED POLITICAL ARTS AND SCIENCES. His classrooms were his offices, the floor of the U.S. House, its committee rooms and the farms and towns of the 18th Congressional District. Everywhere he went, he taught his staff by his example what it means to be a great public servant.
President John Adams once said the Constitution is the project of “good heads prompted by good hearts.” Bob taught us that both head and heart are necessary in order to be a good congressman and a good staffer. Bob taught us by example that the 18th Congressional District should offer a forum for reasoned debate among constituents equal in dignity. Bob taught us to respect every person no matter their opinion or political persuasion. I heard him say on more than one occasion you learn much more from listening.
Bob worked every day either in Washington or the district to do the work of the people and not engage in ideological melodramas or political vendettas. He expected, in fact he demanded, all his staff to do the same. Bob knew warfare first hand, not war in a Steven Spielberg movie or a war fought in the pages of books, but real war. I guess that is the reason he never used macho phrases like “warfare” and “take no prisoners” when discussing politics with his staff. To Bob, the harsh, personal rhetoric of ideological warfare had no place in his office, no place in the House of Representatives, and no place in American politics. Bob knew that the rhetoric we use often shapes the political actions we take. I never saw Bob get angry or use a swear word. Whenever there is a debate on the House floor or in the 18th Congressional District conducted by men and women with good heads and good hearts, treating each other with mutual respect Bob Michel’s long rich legacy of respect for others and his uncommon decency to all will endure. He was a great congressman, leader and teacher.
Three final thoughts: Bob Michel loved to garden. He had some of the most beautiful flower beds both at his homes in Peoria and Washington, D.C. Bob Michel was an extraordinary singer. His constituents loved to hear him sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.” Bob Michel was a long-suffering Cubs fan. He supported the Cubs since he was a young boy. He was so thrilled to be able to watch the Cubs win the World Series. He never dreamed he would live long enough to see his beloved Cubs win the World Series. We are blessed to have worked with such a strong leader, outstanding citizen and wonderful friend.
Congressman Robert H. Michel: March 2, 1923 – Feb. 17, 2017